Surely Galveston Can Do Better Than "Galveston"

Notwithstanding the recent Galveston-based Carnival cruise liner whose faulty engines landed its passengers in a world of hurt (and national headlines), the island is again throwing its arms open for the upcoming summer season. Last week the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau announced that it had secured the rights to use Glen Campbell's 1969 hit song "Galveston" as the centerpiece of a new tourist-oriented campaign.

Smart move for the Bureau, especially using a new recording of the tune it reportedly snatched for a paltry $25,000 -- for a song, if you will -- instead of Campbell's original, which we assume is a sight steeper. Make no mistake, "Galveston" is a wonderful song; in fact, the Jimmy Webb-penned tune is one of the greatest in country-music history by some most reckonings, including a 2003 CMT countdown that put it all the way at No. 8.

But using "Galveston" is just so damn predictable at this point. It's also not especially about the titular city, except in the way Galveston reminds the Vietnam-serviceman narrator of a woman he once made out with in the Gaido's parking lot or the alley behind Col. Bubbie's. (Something like that.)

In Webb's song, Galveston is little more than a pleasant memory to distract the singer as he's trying to avoid getting his head blown off. Here are five songs that should be better-suited to the bureau's purposes -- each is quite a bit more recent than "Galveston," and contains language strongly hinting the singers have actually set foot on the island (or near it) to boot.

5. Bruce Springsteen, "Galveston Bay" Yes, it's the Boss, but if there's a song the Island CVB is least likely to use in a tourism spot, this is probably it. On 1995's The Ghost of Tom Joad, Springsteen tells of a former South Vietnamese officer who emigrates to Seabrook and buys a shrimp boat that eventually gets torched by the Klan. He achieves an uneasy peace with his white neighbors, but all the same "Galveston Bay" hardly screams "Y'all come visit!"

4. Son Volt, "Seawall" The evidence that "Seawall," from the revitalized Son Volt's brand-new (and mighty fine) brand-new LP, Honky Tonk, is even about Galveston is circumstantial at best. Still, the lyric "There's a gulf that flows between/ And the Seawall's wearing down" is persuasive enough for us to count it. Mostly the song is about these two "honky-tonk angels" with whom singer Jay Farrar finds himself entangled, right alongside some downright mournful steel guitar.

3. Hayes Carll, "I Got a Gig" Carll spent some of his most important formative years as a songwriter living and gigging on Bolivar Peninsula, pouring his experiences into the albums Highway 87 and Trouble In Mind. Released a few months before Hurricane Ike virtually wiped Bolivar off the map, Trouble In Mind finds him not-quite-fondly reminiscing about tin-sided beachside dives like Bob's Sports Bar & Grill, keeping a schedule Carll memorializes in the song as "six nights a week in a neon flame."


2. Spoon, "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" Spoon's 2002 album Kill the Moonlight was almost too good. It turned the band's generally mild-mannered singer/guitarist Britt Daniel into one of the hottest properties in indie-rock, so it's not terribly suprising he needed to drop off the map for a while once the album's extended promotional cycle was over.

"Beast and Dragon," which opened next LP Gimme Fiction three long years later, explains exactly where Daniel chose to disappear, and what he did while he was there: "And I went down by the Seawall/ That's when I knew, knew 'They Never Got You,'" he sings, referencing another song on the album.

1. Iron & Wine, "Waves of Galveston" Galveston is precisely the type of place a large Hill Country family might enjoy visiting to get a taste of the seaside salt air, away from all that damn cedar. That must be the case for Dripping Springs-dwelling patriarch Sam Beam, aka bearded indie-folk bard Iron & Wine, who cut "Waves of Galveston" for the first installment of the Onion AV Club's "State by State" video series last month.

Paradoxically, the Club decided to ask Beam to record "Waves," which appears on this month's new album Ghost On Ghost, at legendary New Braunfels venue Gruene Hall. What, was the 1894 Grand Opera House or Old Quarter not good enough?

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