Blog Post: 5 Songs You Should Never Play in U-Bahn Again

Something I wrote in my desperate madness of unemployment…

If there’s something I’ve learned in Berlin, it’s being less judgemental, more tolerant, opened and relaxed towards anybody who crosses my way. I got tired of haters and try not to be one anymore, even though it takes a lot of energy sometimes. But once in a while, you can’t fight it; especially when it haunts you and there’s no escape.

Kudos to those who play their own music like Infidelix, to the guy who played violoncello in the U-Bahn station, to the old pianist sipping red wine, to any hang drum player or to that guitarist whose drones sounded like Jim Jarmusch’s next movie soundtrack. The guy who played Mad World on a mini harp on Friedrichstrasse – not sure about him. But there ARE good street musicians and I’m always happy to contribute when somebody is trying to make their living. But then there are those who choose to perform “hits that everybody likes“ to move your heart and get your purse out of the pocket. I’ve heard these songs countless times in different parts of town, different times of the day and in various versions which usually suck, and even if they wouldn’t, hearing them so often just disgusted me these ones forever (if I already didn’t hate them beforehands (see number 1, 2, 5)). So please, if you have a need to make some extra Euros by playing music in the streets of Berlin, avoid these ones or I will avoid you.

1. The Beatles – Let It Be
There are many, many songs by The Fab Four which are great. But Let It Be, a partly typical 4 chord song, a title track from their last album and a touching, sticky slow dance motivational ballad speaking the words of wisdom… is not the best representative. C’mon, even McCartney himself allegedly hates this song. So learn the lesson and… let it be.

2. Wonderwall
A must in every juke box machine from 1995 on, which lyrics probably appear even in English school songbooks together with chords which many guitar-playing beginners fail to master, this song for some reason appeals even to those who aren’t Oasis‘ fans. Which (as obviously not a fan) I can’t understand. And even those who liked it at the beginning as clueless teenagers have to get tired of it since it has been covered by almost everybody who’s lost their decensy. There is one plus though – the street performers of this song, which is supposed to describe ‚an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself‘ (sic!), at least don’t bleat like Liam Gallagher.

3. Consuelo Velázquez – Besame Mucho
I’ve known this famous bolero song in many versions since I had to sing it in a music school. There are countless versions of it – no wonder, it belongs to Latin Grammy’s Hall of Fame. There are also countless versions of this love song happening right now out there, in U-Bahns, S-Bahns, in the streets, in front of supermarkets. And it’s not easy to sing – that’s my empirical experience, not only from the singer’s point of view, but also from the listener’s one. You need to smoke about 10 cigars and have few shots of rum to have the right shade of voice and still be able to make a great vocal performance and put all the fiery desire to your expression. Which never happens, not in U-Bahn. Just give it up guys, there’s no way we would ever kiss you after you’d sing this song (especially after all those cigars!).

4. Ray Charles – Hit The Road Jack
During the years in Berlin, I’ve heard many versions of this song in trains. With a speaker on performer’s backs, acoustic, with a clarinet, with a guitar, instrumental, with vocals. All of them sucked. Please, stop abusing this classic since only the original is cool. Face it, you’ll never gonna be Ray Charles. No, not even with those sunglasses on!

5. Leonard Cohen – Halleluyah
Do I really have to explain this?

Title photo: Jonas Tölle

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