Music to Plan By

Isn’t it about time that planners got their own compact disc with music to plan by? Wouldn’t that be a great way for APA to painlessly raise funds (and help avoid raising dues) and to spread the planning gospel? Okay, maybe it won’t turn on the masses to planning, but at a bare minimum it should would be fun to put together a compilation CD of music to plan by.

So we’re going to offer some of our ideas and invite you to send us your ideas which we will post here along with your name. Just click here to submit your suggestions. Be sure to include your name and address (if you prefer to remain anonymous, say so), the song title, the artist who recorded it, and why it is a song to plan by. If you know the album and date it came out, please include that too. And remember, this is not limited to pop music at all.

Now, we hope you’ll enjoy our initial compilation and hope to hear from you soon with your additions to our “virtual” CD. Some you’ve heard of; many will be new to you. We bet you have a lot more you could add. By the way, we apologize now for any misspellings. Thanks to all who have contributed.

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(1) Take Bob Marley’s Redemption Song and replace the lyrics with a planner’s take. Click here for Charles Brewer’s wonderful adaptation.

(2) Jenni Jones, a transportation planner with the Missouri DOT, reports on a great bluegrass band from Springfield, MO, called Big Smith who wrote two extremely poignant songs focused on the ramifications that planning decisions / developments have on communities. “Barrel Springs” discusses the impact of development on the environment. The music’s gentle melody touches her and might touch you as well. “Quarry Anthem” is the anger that the citizens of Christian County felt after the Commission approved a quarry. A NIMBY song! Click here to read these fascinating lyrics.

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Demolition — The Kinks. Preservation Act 1 (1973). There’s a lot more substance to the Kinks than inventing heavy metal (can’t forgive them for that) and Lola.
The ultimate urban renewal song. The first verse pretty much says it all:

“I spy with my little eye, anything here that I can buy.
I see a thatched cottage, looking so neat
With compulsory purchase, we can buy it up cheap.
Then we’ll pull up the floorboards, knock down the walls,
Rock the foundations, like a pack of cards, crashing to the ground.
Then we’ll build a row of identical boxes
And sell them all off at treble the profits.
From "Demolition" by Raymond Douglas Davies. Copyright Davray Music. 1973.

Scrapheap City — The Kinks. Preservation Act 2 (1974). You gotta read the lyrics. Both Preservation Act 1 and Preservation Act 2 have been reissued on CD by Rhino Records (#R2 70523). Critics favorably compared this very original rock opera to the Three Penny Opera.

Shangri–la — The Kinks. Oh heck, while we’re on the subject, some of us would contend that this is the greatest song in rock history from what may be one of the finest albums ever recorded, Arthur or the Rise and Fall of the British Empire (and if you look at the reviews of it at, a lot of folk think it is probably the greatest rock — if you can call it that — album). It’s hard to think of another song that so vividly captures the lifestyle changes of the post–World War II era. Sociology meets rock and roll, with some of the most intelligent lyrics you can dance to.

Government Center — Jonathon Richmond. A perfect gentle anthem for anyone — not just planners — who works for government. You’ve all seen him in the movies — he is best known as the singer in Something About Mary. His live shows are love fests with his audience in very small venues where he and his drummer wander through the crowd singing their sweet, gentle tunes with childlike abandon. But for the tougher side of rock’s real boy child, click here.

Corner Store — Jonathon Richmond. One of the creators of punk rock tells the sweet tale of the loss of the corner store, an important fixture in any neighborhood. We remember them well, but children in suburbia have no idea what we’re talking about.

Give a Damn — Spanky and Our Gang. This theme song of New York’s Urban Coalition really does explain why we had all better give a damn about the situation in so many inner cities and the American Apartheid that perpetuates it. If we could get the APA Board to pay attention to this tune, maybe the Board would get serious about implementing its Development Plan goal of building a climate conducive to sound, ethical, inclusive, and discrimination–free planning.

Where Do the Children Play — Cat Stevens’ tuneful song covers recreation facilities, transportation systems, urban skyscrapers, casinos reports Stu Baker. From the remarkable album Tea for the Tillerman (Yes, that's the one with “Father & Son” and “Wild World.”). An excerpt (click here for the full lyrics):

“Well I think it’s fine, building jumbo planes.
Or taking a ride on a cosmic train.
Switch on summer from a slot machine.
Yes, get what you want to if you want, ’cause you can get anything.

“I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?”

Big Yellow Taxi — Joni Mitchell. How many times have we had to approve a development proposal that “paves over paradise to put in a parking lot?” Eddy Davis suggested this tune that certainly belongs on any CD of “Music to Plan By.”

Subdivisions — Rush. Another suggestion from Eddy Davis of North Carolina.

Burn Down the Malls — by  Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper. The lyric “ever notice that America is turning into a new car, condominium, shopping mall marketing strategy from hell!?” pretty much sums it up. Submitted by D. Watson.

Johnny Can’t Read — By Don Henley of The Eagles. Education is one of the keys to making it today’s world. Too bad nobody is accountable for the sorry state of education in much of our country today.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.  At least I always tell my clients that planning is
about “you can’t always get what you want, but you might get what you need.”
Submitted by Roger Wagoner
Planner Tom Poupard (Illinois) suggested People Have the Power by Patti Smith which helps
him make it through the typically tough day municipal planners often face:
“I hum the refrain to myself during the course of the day...”

“The power to dream / to rule 
to wrestle the world from fools 
it's decreed the people rule 
it's decreed the people rule 
I believe everything we dream 
can come to pass through our union 
we can turn the world around 
we can turn the earth's revolution 
we have the power 
People have the power…”
Editor’s Note: While Patti Smith’s original version of this rock anthem is great, you should have heard
and seen the entire cast of the Vote for Change Tour perform it online (or on the Sundance Channel
on cable) on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004. I get goose-bumps just thinking about the performance of this
song by the likes of Springsteen, Mellencamp, R.E.M., and a slew of others. It was really stirring.
Someone identified only as suggests:
The song that kept running through my head was one that is an uplifiting 
account of our center cities. A song that celebrates density and the life 
found only in our urban centers. Lets celebrate planning with Petula Clark’s 
Feeling burned out?
Paul DiGiuseppe of Tallahassee, FL, offers the following suggestions for your listening pleasure:
Down in a Hole by Alice In Chains
And Justice for All by Metallica
Are There Any More Real Cowboys
by Neil Young

Quadrophenia (The Who) - Heath Eddie, AICP, of  Pennsylvania recommends this entire double CD. "Quadrophenia speaks to the loneliness and downtrodden feelings of the urban kids of Peter Townshend’s youth in London.  A little parochial (The Mods are not a familiar clique for Americans) and the music has been described by Townshend as “Wagneresque” but its still a great set of songs."

Summer in the City — The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966 or thereabouts). Stuart Meck, FAICP, suggested this gem some time ago. This pioneering record may have been the first to bring the sounds of the city to vinyl, but not the last.

The Power and the Glory — The late Phil Och’s homage to America! One of the most patriotic songs ever written (even Anita Bryant recorded it, although word has it that she kept complaining that she couldn’t understand what it meant), this tune along with Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land should have dominated the musical landscape after September 11 with the realistic love for this land that they evoked.

Streets of Philadelphia — Bruce Springsteen. Not many people go around humming this unforgettable Academy Award winner from the film Philadelphia, but it does as good a job as any song to convey the experience of AIDs to the civilian population.

Hard Times in America — Willie Nile. This New York rocker’s tune should have been the theme song for the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign. Well, actually it could be the theme song for whoever challenges Dubya in 2004, assuming he no longer has a war to hide behind.

Salt of the Earth — The Rolling Stones. One of the most beautiful homages to working people you will ever hear, filled with their pain and effort.

Douglas Albertson of Massachusetts, offered these fine choices:

Rock and Roll by the Velvet Underground conveys the multifarious and often cryptic moods and images of the search for that elusive connection with society — the personal striving for individual fulfillment through social recognition that we look for in our social agglomerations; that is, our communities, our cities.

Roadrunner by the Modern Lovers offers expressions similar to Rock and Roll. The potential feels like it’s right there, but… we keep looking. (Editors’ note: Hard to believe, but that’s the very childlike Jonathon Richmond at the helm of the Modern Lovers, one of the groups that invented punk rock. Also in the group: Jerry Hairston of the Talking Heads and producer of the BoDeans best albums.) Return to Government Center.

Living For the City by Stevie Wonder, Yep,  New York, just like I pictured it.. This song is almost too obvious as a choice.

Silver Wheels by Bruce Cockburn. “Urban anticipation, we get four lanes.” Cockburn’s song evokes a tangible sense of driving across the middle of the continent and coming into any city of any size, as “The skin around every city looks the same, miles of flat neon spelling well–known names, used trucks, dirty doughnuts, you–you’re–the–one.…”

Stolen Car by Bruce Springsteen. This song seems to present the utter bleakness of having not found the social connection. Though the song refers to a broken romance, it could express the broken relationships we have with society, compounded by the structure forced by the suburban patterns of secluding people from each other, primarily by keeping them in cars.

Started Out Fine — Holly Near. Near’s original version offers a taut, increasingly tense, nerve shattering rendition of "a hiking boot woman" realizing that she and her young daughter don’t have to depend on her jerky husband to survive and flourish. It should have been the anthem for the woman’s liberation movement, not Helen Reddy’s milquetoast tune. In the soundtrack for her off-Broadway one-woman show, Near reinvents this song.

Magic Town — The Vogues. Before they went soft, the Vogues were expert at evocating the atmosphere of city life with Magic Town, Five O’Clock World, and That’s The Tune.

David Zipf, AICP, of the Bucks County Planning Commission offers:
My City Was Gone - The Pretenders. Lead singer Chrissy Hynde hails from Akron
but has lived in England for many years After returning top Akron she decried the
loss of everything that she held dear to development.
Ball and Chain - XTC. This song from the quirky English band is a call to stop
destruction of historic resources and other structures that give us comfort
and community identity

Earl Finkler, planner, former APA Director, and now PBS radio star, offers these suggestions:

Certainly Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf  — “I like to Dream, Yes Yes........You don’t know
what we can find, why don’t you come with me on a magic carpet ride.”
Reason: We can have all the technology in the world, but we as planners also have to dream, and,
as Perry Norton urges, dream of the community as a whole.
Also by Steppenwolf – Hold On —“Hold on – Never Give Up, Never Give On. Hold On – Never Betray Your
Dreams.”  Maybe a bit hard-lined, but we have to have dreams and determination in planning–lots.
We Built This City – by Starship (self-explanatory) [Editor’s note: This song is mentioned two more times
below, not always in a complimentary manner).
The Last Resort by the Eagles. — “You call some place Paradise – kiss it goodbye.”
Stand by Me –  Ben E. King . That says it all, how we can help each other?
In the office, at the hearing, etc.
and last, but not least:
Take Me Out to the Ballgame as performed by the late Harry Caray. No matter how many
times the Cubs lost, this song always picked up the fans’ spirits. It can
do the same for planners, no matter how many times we lose.

From a list of Top 10 songs to plan to, write to, or just listen to from a planner in Florida (we’ve included only the planning songs):
10. Rush - Subdivisions. An obvious choice, I know. But name another song that actually has the
word “sprawling” in it. None. I didn’t think so.
8. Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the Wall Part 2. From “The Wall.” Followed by the
lesser-known “Pink Floyd: The Type A Vegetative Buffer.” 
3. Nine inch Nails - Terrible Lie. Insert your own developer/county commissioner/lawyer joke
here. While we’re at is you might as well include any song from "Pretty Hate Machine".
2. Kinks - Give the People What They Want. Like we need another Kinks song here
 Listen to the whole album to get the full effect. Isn’t this what democracy is all about?
(giving the people what they want)
1. Pink Floyd - Money. Another obvious choice for obvious reasons. There wouldn’t be
a Florida without this green stuff first.

Songs to NOT plan by. Worst Songs to plan by, write by, or to deprogram the terrorists held
at Guantanamo Bay by. From a planner in Florida (we’ve included only the planning–related songs):
WARNING: Not for the faint of heart
10. Great White : Once Bitten Twice Shy. Two words. Rhode Island. Two more words: Night club.
Three more words: Class action lawsuit. Final words: No reunion tour.
8. Bon Jovi : Any song from New Jersey. You give the 80s a bad name.
7. Phil Collins: No Jacket Required. No musical talent required either. Not even the bad 80s
stations play it any more.
6. Journey: Escape. We are fortunate to have escaped the early 80s - with open arms.
5. STYX - Mr. Roboto. STYX jumps the shark. Just when you thought it was safe to swim in the
waters of schmaltzy pop excess - they release an album that makes all of their previous work
look like Pulitzer-prize winning poetry. By the way the whole “Paradise Theater” album (circa 1980) 
is a nice tribute to historic preservation. Domo Arigato.
4. Foreigner - 4. You’re as cold as ice. You’re willing to sacrifice. You’ve got to pay the price. 
Or something like that.  “I want to know what music is....”
3. Michael Jackson - Bad. I know it’s piling on. But, this album is true to its name. While we’re at it:
Let’s just prohibit any performance by anyone named JACKSON during halftime of not only the
Super Bowl, but the Outback Bowl, the Hula Bowl, and every other bowl, in every sport from high
school through the pros. What ever happened to marching bands at halftime? Couldn’t an 
average middle school marching band put on a better performance than MTV did?  But I digress.
2. Van Halen - Jump. More like, Van Halen Jumps the Shark. Stick with what brung ya: GUITARS.
Repeat after me: VAN HALEN = GUITAR. Not keyboards. Don’t make me repeat myself.
1. Starship - We Built This City. Possibly the worst song about planning or the building industry ever.
Makes me want to burn this city, stomp on the ashes, and wash it all out to sea with a fire hose.
It’s that bad. Not only jumps the shark, but jumps the whole whale as well. As a matter of fact,
it jumps a whole school of whales. This song is just God awful, and deserves our
collective scorn as a profession. 

Philip Poorman, AICP, has a different take on We Built This City. His list of Music to Plan By:

Where the Streets Have No Name - U-2 - Joshua Tree
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For -  U-2 - Joshua Tree
Bullet the Blue Sky - U2 - Joshua Tree. All about life in the city from their point of view. I wonder if Bono would be an activist for planning as he is for 3rd world debt relief?
My Hometown - Bruce Springsteen - Greatest Hits CD - “These jobs are leavin boys and they ain’t coming back.”

Come Dancing - Kinks - Kink Sized Collection CD - All about one corner in the City and how it changes over time
We Built This City - Jefferson Starship - Greatest Hits

If you like the good old days and how things were so much better in the 60’s and 70’s in the City try these songs to help inspire you to new heights in planning your City the old fashioned way with cools cars, leather jackets, walks by the shore, with boardwalks and carnival, then these two songs from “Eddie and the Cruisers” soundtrack are for you:
Wild Summer Nights and Boardwalk Angel. I know John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band is a Bruce Springsteen ripoff (editor’s note: …and a darned good one, at that), but the songs really inspire and make you feel good. Turn them up loud.

Trouble Every Day by Frank Zappa, sung by his group The Mothers of Invention, from the album
“Freak Out!,” 1966.  One of the best commentaries on the urban riots and unrest of the mid-1960s,
still relevant today. (From Stephen Barton, Ph.D. AICP, Housing Director, City of Berkeley, CA)
Mark Heister recommends:
(Nothing But) Flowers by the Talking Heads (Album - naked, 1990) - This utopian poem reveals an unnatural
transition of the land in contrast with Byrne's idyllic visions of an organic world.
I Ain't Got No Home by Woody Guthrie as performed by Bruce Springsteen on Folkways (A Vision Shared) -
A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly (1988)
The Monorail Song - The Simpsons (1993) - Public sold expensive transportation improvement by slick salesman.
Little Palaces by Elvis Costello (1986)
Cleveland Rocks by Ian Hunter (no, I'm not from Cleveland) [Editor's note: You mean Drew Carey didn’t write this? Shocking!]
Ghetto Defendant by The Clash w/ Alan Ginsberg (Combat Rock, 1982)
Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues - So immigration is easy for the immigrants, eh?
Homeless - Paul Simon
Skateaway - Dire Straits
Take the A Train - Duke Ellington & Ella Fitzgerald
Under The Bridge - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Stand - REM
There Goes To Neighborhood - Sheryl Crow
Roundabout by Yes? (sorry, just a pun)

Other possibilities of Songs to Plan By:

Pity the Poor Immigrant (Bob Dylan)
Pastures of Plenty (Woody Guthrie))
Uptown Girl
(Billy Joel — listed here with some trepidation given Mr. Joel’s despicable song “We Didn’t Start the Fire”)
Low Budget (the Kinks again)
New York City You’re a Woman (Al Kooper)

Songs not blamed on anybody else were posted by Daniel Lauber, perpetrator of this page.

That’s it for now. Click here to add your suggestions and briefly explain why the tune belongs on a CD of “Music to Plan By.” We’ll post your suggestions as quickly as we can, probably within 72 hours.

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