Food, glorious food. It seeps into our bellies, it helps us carry on with our lives, and it even gives us a chance to act as a creative muse for composers eager to write a tune about the world around us. But how has the nutrition of sustenance found its way into our music scene?
It’s hard to write a convincing tune solely around the wonders of food, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the artists laced their composition with added imagery and pathos, bringing other nuances into the mix.
From The Beatles to Oasis, the list features other contributions from blues and skiffle artists, bringing their truth to their meals in question. From the slow lethargy of ‘Banana Pancakes’ to the guitar-heavy work of The Beatles work, the list boasts diversity, recipe and density.
If you’re feeling peckish, then that’s only natural, as the artists are waxing lyrically about their favourite dishes. The songs are littered with food imagery, meaning that you should be extra hungry by the time you get to your lunch. Hunger is the best sauce, you know.
10 best songs about food and drink:
10. ‘Savoy Truffle’ – The Beatles
Purportedly written as a way of acknowledging Eric Clapton’s sweet tooth, George Harrison crafted a power ballad that invoked the power of gospel and soul, providing the prototype for his 1975 masterpiece Extra Texture (Read All About It).
Typically, John Lennon doesn’t feature on the song, but Paul McCartney more than makes up for his absence, playing his bass with the ferocity of a heavy metal guitarist. Clearly, Clapton’s influence rubbed off on Harrison in other ways-listen to that solo soar!
9. ‘English Tea’ – Paul McCartney
It took him the best part of 40 years, but Paul McCartney finally wrote a tune that was equal, if not superior, to the jaunty Harrison track about chocolates. This tune took the form of a classic brew, as the bassist recalled the trials and tribulations of bagging a “good ol’ cuppa” in a faraway land.
The words capture the whimsy and wonder of a child searching for a British brew in a land where such customs are more alien than rock music. The song features on Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, which featured a charming photo of the young musician, practising the guitar in Liverpool.
8. ‘Pennyroyal Tea’ – Kurt Cobain
In Utero suffered the sophomore slump of following a monster album, and anyone expecting Nevermind Part II was sorely disappointed. If anything, In Utero, is a Kurt Cobain album featuring Nirvana as a backup band, as he peers into the failings of his childhood, and tears apart the shackles to find his own lyrical voice.
‘Pennyroyal Tea’ demonstrates his innate boredom, as he quietly amuses himself with the comfort of a quiet drink. The song, Cobain said, was done quickly and with little fuss or fanfare. “Dave and I were screwing around on a 4-track,” Cobain admitted, “and I wrote that song in about thirty seconds. And I sat down for like half an hour and wrote the lyrics and then we recorded it.”
7. ‘Banana Pancakes’ – Jack Johnson
Yes, we know what he probably what he means by ‘Banana Pancakes’, but for the sake of the younger, more innocent readers, let’s take the tune at face value and imagine it’s about a man preparing pancakes for his partner.
The song is sparsely arranged, returning the singer back to the tried and tested formula of guitar chimes and handclaps, giving the recording a timeless quality. It could have been recorded 50 years ago, back in days when eating banana pancakes meant eating banana pancakes.
6. ‘Watermelon in Easter Hay’ – Frank Zappa
This Frank Zappa number features some of the artist’s most vibrant guitar work. He narrates the opening section before letting his guitar tackle the rest of the conversation. His son Dweezil believes the instrumental to be the best solo his father ever put to record, and it’s hard to argue with that assertion.
At nine minutes in length, the tune isn’t likely to win over casual Zappa fans, but for the more liberal-minded, the song is soaked in character, contrast and animal-like poise, as the album’s narrator recognises the end of his life to the barrelling sound of a colossal drum clatter.
5. ‘American Pie’ – Don McLean
The song, much like the food itself, has become as American as “American pie.” Indeed, the food birthed a stellar comedy franchise that is still going as of the time of print. But ‘American Pie’ is actually something much deeper still, recalling the horror the nation felt when they heard that Buddy Holly was killed.
Don McLean’s ballad is open to interpretation, and it was re-interpreted by Madonna as an electronic song. It’s not our place to give our opinion on the track, but it’s fair to say that it doesn’t hold the dignity or the authority of the 1971 original.
4. ‘Honey Pie’ – The Beatles
The White Album boasts not one but two tracks about confectionary food. Paul McCartney’s ode to the 1920s featured the singer emulating the voice of a Fred Astaire style vaudeville entertainer. He portrays his betrothed as a sugary treat, to be savoured at special occasions, and to be envied at all other times and junctures.
The song features one of George Harrison’s jauntier bass lines, as McCartney handles the piano duties himself. The Beatles were growing out of their “designated” roles and were happily swapping instruments whenever it suited the track.
3. ‘Coconut’ – Harry Nilsson
This might be the silliest recording about stomach aches, but it’s Harry Nilsson, so we can allow it. The song is very, very silly, from the scattered rhythms that pad out the piece to the helium-tinted vocals that soar over the tune. And in many ways, the song carried on Lennon’s whimsical approach to songwriting, bringing the irony into the 1970s.
The song featured on Quentin Tarantino’s debut Reservoir Dogs, punctuating the film with a levity that felt strangely in keeping with the picture’s idiosyncratic tone and timbre. Australian singer Dannii Minogue recorded a cover of the tune in 1998, although it scarcely troubled the charts.
2. ‘Black Coffee in Bed’ – Squeeze
Squeeze songwriter Chris Difford was inspired to write this particular number when he noticed a coffee stain that soaked itself onto his notebook. “This lyric was inspired by my picking up my notebook one day and seeing a coffee stain on it,” he recalled, “which inspired the first line. It was a very vivid image for me and inspired this song of loss and regret.”
The stain inspired the opening line, from which a tale of recent loss unfolded. The song tells the tale of a broken love, as a man happens upon the memories that symbolised the love that once meant so much to him. Gorgeous.
1. ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ – Oasis
Liam Gallagher might hate this one, but ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ remains one of Noel’s most unashamedly batty compositions, featuring a kitschy, Kinksesque like riff and splashes of barrelhouse piano. Best of all, the lure of lasagna is enough to tempt a girl over for the “best years of our lives,” typifying the central theme of Oasis’ first and best album, Definitely Maybe.
To his credit, Liam delivers a blinding lead vocal, cementing the song’s treatise with a striking performance that comforted listeners in the changing times. The 1990s promised to be a more exciting decade than the one that came immediately before it, and Oasis were sure to join in on the action, even bringing their lasagna along for good measure.