10 Best Songs Celebrating Nostalgia – A Personal View
Nostalgia is that longing for a past that has gone, looking back on it favourably. It is supposed to be a pleasant experience. It's celebrating the past; maybe there are some regrets, especially that it's over, but it is supposed to be a celebration.
Cue wistful look... (morguefile)
Songwriters, being who they are, of course, utilise this in their lyrics.
So here are the 10 songs that, in my opinion, best capture that sense of nostalgia. These are not songs about things that happened in the past, like lost loves or whatnot, but capture the essence of a past time. Wow, that sounds almost philosophical. It's not.
Musical nostalgia… possibly not what I meant… (morguefile)
Just some good songs to help you reminisce about your own past, hopefully in a nice, positive way. Here, in order of year of release, are my top 10:
1) Penny Lane – The Beatles (1967)
Paul McCartney's love letter to the Liverpool Street of the title, and thus his childhood, is a glorious celebration of the sights and sounds that made his and John Lennon's childhoods so special and was what took them to where they ended up. It may be a little twee for modern audiences, but there is no doubting that the imagery of this song is brilliant. And, think back – don't you have similar memories of where you grew up? Not identical (of course… unless you're in your 70s and do come from Liverpool, in which case, ignore what I just said) but similar enough.
Lyrics example: Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes. There beneath the blue suburban skies I sit, and meanwhile back.
Looking back at a time in a bar doing a dance called the 'Crocodile Rock', the people, the sounds… ah, life. But it is a sad song as well, despite its up-tempo beat – while he looks back on it fondly, he misses it. The whole place is gone, the girl is gone and now it is all a memory. It is the nostalgia of the place that keeps it alive for him. Beautiful. For me, it's like looking back at the Blue Light Disco at Campbelltown – 1980s music playing, the girl I found that night, the pleasant memories. Something that is gone and will not be recaptured. (Cue sad wistful stare into the distance…)
Well Crocodile Rocking is something shocking
When your feet just can't keep still
I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will
3) Against The Wind – Bob Seger And The Silver Bullet Band (1980)
This is a sad song, examining a life that felt like it was a fight all the way through, and now, as an adult looking back, he still feels like he's running against that wind. But the sense of nostalgia and looking back at the past is strong through it all. The opening verse about Janey is positive, and then it all starts to go against the singer. Sad, but oh so beautiful. Sometimes life did feel like that sort of struggle, and while it is hard to be nostalgic about it (remember how we had no money? Good times…), it making us what we are today does bring that sense into it.
Against the wind
I'm still runnin' against the wind
I'm older now but still runnin' against the wind
Well I'm older now and still runnin'
Against the wind
While this song is about Bryan Adams' personal experiences – and he actually says that it's a song about making love – the fact that this song celebrates growing up and looking to the future viewed through the eyes of that future person gives it a feel that so many related to, making it one of his biggest singles, and one of the biggest singles of 1984. There is a sense of regret, but only a little. It's the memories that make the song. While not all of us can relate to having that first band and then going on to be a multi-millionaire rock star, scaled back, it does show how the boy sometimes does make the man.
And now the times are changin'
Look at everything that's come and gone
Sometimes when I play that old six-string
I think about ya wonder what went wrong
The tale of a man looking back on his life and the lives of some of his friends with a sense of slight regret, but not really his own regret. His friends might be living a little in the past, but he's not, at least not yet. The fact that it's based on some real people makes it even more poignant. Maybe it's more a cautionary tale of not letting yourself get caught up in living in the past. However, the nostalgia of all involved looking back on their lives is the power of the lyrics, as it is for so many of us. Still, awesome song.
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of, well time slips away
And leaves you with nothing mister but
Boring stories of glory days
A song about becoming an adult while still feeling like a kid, told from the point of view of the adult, this song is a little sad in tone, but it is a celebration of that time of life when so much seemed more important than it had any right to seem. Some of the imagery might be a little depressing, especially the future of being "forgotten and absorbed into the earth below", but the sense of nostalgia that runs through the song is still really strong.
To the lights and towns below
Faster than the speed of sound
Faster than we thought we'd go, beneath the sound of hope
This song looking back on memories of childhood with the benefit of hindsight is sad in many ways. Some of the things that were done were regretted, but in the end, they did lead to where the singer is now. After all, like the singer, how many of us haven't broken into our old school? What? Is it just us? My bad… Anyway, it's about childhood and not being able to return to those times, yet reliving those fond memories as fond memories and nothing else. The perfect nostalgia song.
Every memory of lookin' out the back door
I have the photo album spread out on my bedroom floor
It's hard to say it
Time to say it
Remembering parties and girls and celebrating them both: singing songs, watching nature, drinking, having fun, being young and enjoying every minute of it. The nostalgia of "how we thought those days would never end" sets the mood of the song perfectly, and the backing music mash-up of Warren Zevon's 'Werewolves Of London' and Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Sweet Home Alabama' is awesome. For me, it's singing Cold Chisel songs in the front room of Brett's place, drinking beer, being young and enjoying every minute of it.
Now nothing seems as strange as when the leaves began to change
Or how we thought those days would never end
Sometimes I'll hear that song and I'll start to sing along
And think man I'd love to see that girl again
While this song is very specific to Ed Sheeran's own Suffolk home, the sentiments ring true for so many of us. That one piece of architecture that sets the scene for so many memories. And the people who helped him when he grew up… It's magic. On a personal note, from the first time I heard the song, it reminded me of an old house that at one stage dominated my life when I was a kid. When it was pulled down, it felt like my childhood had gone with it. This song hit me – it brought those memories back to me hard. Curse you, Ed Sheeran!
Yeah, I love it.
But these people raised me and I can't wait to go home
And I'm on my way, I still remember
This old country lanes
When we did not know the answers
And I miss the way you make me feel, it's real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill
10) Good Old Days – Macklemore featuring Kesha (2017)
A gorgeous song with Kesha supplying a lovely chorus and Macklemore's verses giving a sense of his life. This is a song not about regret but about celebration. It's also about enjoying the moment and not letting yourself get caught up in too much else. Even the closing lines about having wrinkles, scars and pain are a celebration. The lyrics are as close to perfect as you can get. Just a great song.
I wish somebody would have told me that
Some day, these will be the good old days
All the love you won't forget
And all these reckless nights you won't regret
Someday soon, your whole life's gonna change
You'll miss the magic of these good old days