Tune That Name: B

Oh, God save the human cannonball …

Belshazzar,” Johnny Cash
Ben’s Song,” Sarah McLachlan
Bennie and the Jets,” Elton John
Dr. Bernice,” Cracker

Oh Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess?” Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
Black Betty,” Ram Jam
Where the Hell Is Bill?” Camper Van Beethoven
Billie Jean,” Neil Finn
Billie’s Blues,” Billie Holiday
Billy’s Bones,” Dropkick Murphys
Billy’s Bones,” The Pogues
Ode to Billy Joe,” Gigi Dover
Wild Billy’s Circus Story,” Bruce Springsteen
Blake Says,” Amanda Palmer
One (Blake’s Got a New Face),” Vampire Weekend
Bobby Jean,” Bruce Springsteen
Me and Bobby McGee,” Allison Crowe
Me and Bobby McGee,” Janis Joplin
Song to Bobby,” Cat Power
Brenda,” Vigilantes of Love
Bryn,” Vampire Weekend
Bud Morris,” Ballydowse
Buzz Fledderjohn,” Tom Waits

This list includes songs in which both Bruce Springsteen and Amanda Palmer channel Lou Reed — Palmer probably succeeds more. And with the Dropkick Murphys, the Pogues, and Ballydowse, it’s a pretty good list for punk shanties.

“Belshazzar,” Johnny Cash says, was the first song he played for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. It’s a jaunty little Southern Gospel song, until you listen to the lyrics, which walk that fine line where the prophetic meets the apocalyptic. “Your kingdom cannot stand,” Daniel tells the emperor and the oppressor. Theologically, that’s not the stuff of white Southern Gospel, but of Black Gospel. It’s more “Let My People Go” than it is “I’ll Fly Away.”

The term “liberation theology” scares a lot of people because they don’t know what it means. When you meet somebody like that, play Johnny Cash’s “Belshazzar” for them, that’ll explain it.

(The term “liberation theology” also scares a lot of people because they do know what it means. When you meet somebody like that, play “Belshazzar” for them and scare ’em a little more.)

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  • wanderingoutlaw

    “Baba O’Riley”  – The Who
    “Barbara Allen” – Roger McGuinn
    “Barbara Ann” – The Beach Boys
    “Barbara Anne” – The Regents
    “Barbara Ellen” – Laura Cortese & Jefferson Hamer
    “Lord Bateman” – Hladowski & Joynes
    “Mr Baylis” – Kasey Chambers
    “Bessie Smith” – Bob Dylan and The Band
    “Goodbye Bessie Mae” – Lonnie Youngblood
    “Roll Over Beethoven” – Chuck Berry
    “Roll Over Beethoven” – The Byrds
    “Bill Morgan And His Girl” – The New Lost City Ramblers
    “Billy 1” – Bob Dylan
    “Billy 4” – Bob Dylan
    “Billy 7” – Bob Dylan
    “Billy Graham” – Swirling Eddies
    “Billy Grimes The Rover” – The New Lost City Ramblers
    “Blake’s Jerusalem” – Billy Bragg
    “Old Blue” – The Byrds
    “Old Blue” – Roger McGuinn
    “On Another’s Sorrow Blake” – Allen Ginsberg
    “Boris the Spider” – The Who
    “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” – Bob Dylan
    “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” – Taj Mahal & The Phantom Blues Band
    “Bob Dylan’s Blues” – Bob Dylan
    “Bob Dylan’s Dream” – Bob Dylan
    “Bob Dylan’s Dream” – Bryan Ferry
    “Song for Bob Dylan” – David Bowie
    “Brandy Leave Me Alone” – Roger McGuinn
    “Burns Supper” – Richard Thompson
    “Buzz Aldrin” – Robert Johnson And Punchdrunks

  • Dawn

    Jean Ritchie — Lord Bateman (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXWpSbK6rGA)
    Jean Ritchie — Barbry Allen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l3VePGR-QA)
    Stan Rogers — Barrett’s Privateers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIwzRkjn86w)

  • Geetar59

    Okay, this is something I’ve always wondered about: in the Ram Jam video, what is the purpose of the shirtless guy to the left of the screen, behind the lead singer/guitarist? He has no instrument, doesn’t sing, just sort of dances around in a clueless way. I remember Ram Jam from back in the day (senior year of high school!), and I still love this song, but the video (which I saw for the first time only a couple of years ago) puzzles me. Maybe he’s a male go-go dancer? Who knew this band was so forward-looking in terms of gender roles?

  • “Bab’s Uvula Who?” Green Day
    “Baba O’Riley,” Pearl Jame
    “Baba O’Riley,” The Lovehammers
    “Baba O’Riley,” The Who
    “Barbie Girl,” Home Grown
    “Benjamin,” Veruca Salt
    “Beverly Penn,” The Waterboys
    “Billie Jean,” Michael Jackson
    “Biloxi Parish,” The Gaslight Anthem (okay, not a person name, but I wanted to give the song a shout out, since it’s pretty huge)
    “Bob Hill Climbin’,” Dead Hot Workshop
    “Bobby Booshay,” Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
    “Booker,” Harry Connick, Jr.
    “Bowie,” Flight of the Conchords
    “With David Bowie,” Veruca Salt
    “Bret You’ve Got it Going On,” Flight of the Conchords
    “Brian Wilson,” Barenaked Ladies
    “Brooklyn Kid,” Cross Canadian Ragweed
    “Bryn-Mawr Stomp,” Local H
    “Buddha Rhubarb Butter,” Soul Coughing
    “Bus to Beelzebub,” Soul Coughing
    “Cowboy Bill,” Garth Brooks
    “Dollar Bill,” Screaming Trees
    “Virginia Belle,” Pat Green
    “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” South Park

    Also, I’m going to start working on the J list now.  That’s gonna be a long one…

  • Bad Horse Chorus and Reprise – Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog
    Brunel – The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing
    The Batman Theme – Batman Instrumental Soundtrack (Danny Elfman)

  • stardreamer42

    Barbie Girl — Aqua
    Billy the Kid — Aaron Copland
    Beethoven 9 — Apollo 100
    Bonny Barbry-O — Battlefield Band
    Bo Diddley — Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
    John Barleycorn — traditional
    Brian Boru’s March — Loreena McKennitt

  • Sam Kabo Ashwell

    The Ballad of Billy Kershaw, Jake Thackray
    Little Big Ben, Plume (apparently today is Not Available On Youtube Day)
    Betty’s Lament, Isan
    Beatrix, Cocteau Twins
    Slaughter of Bruce, The Gits
    Bonita Applebum, A Tribe Called Quest

    also, this thread cannot go without the mention of the The Gashlycrumb Tinies, the best song and alphabet book about names ever.

  • urbicande

    Looking Glass, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)

  • “Mr Blessington’s Imperialist Plot” – Astronautalis
    “Mr Brownstone” – Guns N’ Roses”Billy’s Got a Gun” – Def Leppard”Della Brown” – Queensryche”97 Bonnie & Clyde” – Tori AmosHow could Fred have missed “Biko”? Pretty sure it’s turned up on his lists before.

  • urbicande

    And how could I have missed:

    Paper Lace, “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero

  • Away from home, so just going on what’s on the iPod, but Black Betty (the original by Ledbelly, though I also have the RamJam cover as part of my ‘uncover’ playlist)

  • Simongren

      Ben – Michael Jackson  Love song to a rat.

  • Justin

    “Ballad of Bob Dylan” – Richard Belzer
    “Ballad of Bobby and June” – Mitch and Mickey
    “Barbriallen” – Simon & Garfunkel
    “Bartolomeo and the Buzzing of Bees” – Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
    “Be-Bop-A-Lula” – Gene Vincent
    “Becky” – All Girl Summer Fun Band
    “Beezleboss (The Final Showdown)” – Tenacious D
    “Ben” – Fenix TX
    “Beth” – KISS
    “Bigfoot!” – The Weakerthans
    “Billericay Dickie” – Ian Dury & the Blockheads
    “Billy ‘s Third” – The Undertones
    “Billy Club” – Lagwagon
    “Billy Hunt” – The Jam
    “Billy One-Eye” – Martin Mull and His Fabulous Furniture
    “Billy Spleen” – Sum 41
    “Bloody Mary” – The Living End
    “Blue 3 (Bruce Lee)” – Peelander-Z
    “Blue Suede Schubert” – The Rutles
    “Bo Diddley” – Bo Diddley
    “Bob” – NOFX
    “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” – Bob Dylan
    “Bob Dylan’s Blues” – Bob Dylan
    “Bob Dylan’s Dream” – Bob Dylan
    “Bony Moronie” – Larry Williams
    “Boxcar” – Jawbreaker
    “Brendan #1”
    “Buddy Holly” – Weezer


  • Vermic

    Where the hell is Bill, anyway?  Did he ever turn up?

  • Jon Frater

    “Ballad of Bill Hubbard” — Roger Waters
    “Betty and Me” — Jonathan Coulton
    “Ballad of Rufus Amos Adams” — Paul & Storm
    “Bozo’s Lament” — Jonathan Coulton
    “Buddy Holly” — Weezer

  • Heather Nova – Blue Black

  • Noyatin

    Bertha -Grateful Dead
    Black Jack Davy -Obray Ramsey, Steeleye Span
    Black Peter -Grateful Dead
    Blind Arthur’s Breakdown – Blind Blake
    Blind Willie McTell -The Band
    Buddy Brown’s Blues -David Bromberg
    John Barleycorn Must Die -Traffic
    Railroad Bill -Hobart Smith
    Roll Over Beethoven – Chuck Berry, Beatles
    Sweet Georgia Brown -Bing Crosby
    Wild Bill Jones -Obray Ramsey

  • glendanowakowsk

    Maybe it was his house, and he let them shoot the video there as long as he was included.*
    *Pure conjecture on my part.

  • Czanne

    Blackfriars’ Bridge – The Men They Couldn’t Hang (because it’s a collective name for a specific group of people)
    Barkis’s Bummer – Danny Elfman (Corpse Bride)
    Bella’s Lullaby – Carter Burwell (Twilight Soundtrack. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit to it. It’s not a bad piece of music, all things considered.)
    Blucher – Kamelot
    Boadicea – Enya
    Bug’s Got a Devilish Grin Conga – Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream)
    Dr. Bernice – Cracker
    III. R.B.T. (Richard Baxtet Townshed) – Edward Elgar (Enigma Variations)
    IV. W.M.B. (William Meath Baker) – Edward Elgar (Enigma Variations)
    Bella Donna – Bond
    There’s Something About Buffy – Robert Duncan (BTVS, Season 7 soundtrack)

  • Amaryllis

    Barbara Allen – Emmylou Harris
    Barbara-Song – from Die Dreigroschenoper
    Reel Beatrice – Sharon Shannon
    Bogie’s Bonnie Belle – Archie Fisher
    Bogie’s Bonnie Belle – Cherish the Ladies
    Black Betty – Leadbelly
    A Health to Betty – The Broadside Band
    Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home – Sarah Vaughan
    A Horse Named Bill – Jerry Garcia & David Grisman
    Railroad Bill – John Jackson
    Wild Bill Jones – Charlie Parr
    Billie’s Blues – Billie Holiday
    Billy Boy – The High Level Ranters
    Billy the Squid – Tom Chapin
    When the Wind Blows, Billy Boy – The Whisky Priests
    Young Billy Brown – The Watersons
    Bobby Jean – Bruce Springsteen
    Brid Og Ni Mhaille – Altan
    Bridget O’Malley – Silly Wizard
    Brighid Cruis – Derek Bell
    Bryan O’Lynn/The Hag With the money – Steeleye Span
    The Ghost That Haunted Bunty – Louis Killen

    I would have liked to include “Eat Bertha’s Mussels,” for local color. But I don’t happen to own it, and I can’t find it anyway. Maybe it’s one of those songs that’s only performed live. But remember,
    if ever you’re ashore in Baltimore, and you fancy a bite to eat,
    just follow your nose to Bertha’s, you’ll be in for a rare old treat.

  • spinetingler

    My Girl, Bill – Jim Stafford


  • spinetingler

     or the hit version in the US by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods

  • Atgeyer

    Ballad Of Billy Jo McKay – Shawn Mullins  Barbara Anne – The Regents Bathsheba Smiles – Richard Thompson Benjamin Calypso – Cast – Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Bennie and The Jets – Elton John Billie Jean – Michael Jackson Billy – James Blunt Billy – Los Lobos Billy And Bonnie – Steve Earle Bobby Don’t Stop – Steve Goodman Bobby Jean – Bruce Springsteen Boris Dancing – Ian Anderson Electric Barberella – Duran Duran Father Bruce – Grace Slick Me And Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin Song Of Bernardette – Jennifer Warnes Wild Billy’s Circus Story – Bruce Springsteen Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey? – Harry Connick, Jr.  

    If you try only one tune from this list, “St. Brendan’s Voyage” from the irreplaceable (and irrepressible) Christy Moore is my favorite.  The music is shamelessly cheerful, and the lyrics are both clever and delightfully silly.  


  • OK, one more try with the above list, this time actually logged in so that I can edit bad formatting…

    Ballad Of Billy Jo McKay – Shawn Mullins
    Barbara Anne – The Regents
    Bathsheba Smiles – Richard Thompson
    Benjamin Calypso – Cast – Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
    Bennie and The Jets – Elton John
    Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
    Billy – James Blunt
    Billy – Los Lobos
    Billy And Bonnie – Steve Earle
    Bobby Don’t Stop – Steve Goodman
    Bobby Jean – Bruce Springsteen
    Boris Dancing – Ian Anderson
    Electric Barberella – Duran Duran
    Father Bruce – Grace Slick
    Me And Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin
    Song Of Bernardette – Jennifer Warnes
    St. Brendan’s Voyage – Christy Moore
    Wild Billy’s Circus Story – Bruce Springsteen
    Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey? – Harry Connick, Jr.

    (And St. Brendan’s Voyage by Christy Moore is still the best of the bunch.)


  • Bab’s Uvula Who? – Green Day
    Baba O’Riley – the Who
    Till Bacchus på Bellmans vis – Cornelis Vreeswijk
    Bacon Rind / Chief Seattle / The Ballad of Ira Hayes – Tom Russell
    Barbara Allen – Bob Dylan
    Barbara Ann – the Who
    Barbie Doll – Todd Snider
    John Barleycorn – Steeleye Span
    Maria Bartiromo – Joey Ramone
    Roll Over Beethoven – Chuck Berry
    Roll Over Beethoven – the Beatles
    Belshazzar – Johnny Cash
    Ben McCulloch – Steve Earle
    Hördu Bengt – Euskefeurat
    Ingrid Bergman – Billy Bragg & Wilco
    Bessie Smith – the Band
    Beth – Kiss
    Betty Was Black (and Willie Was White) – Todd Snider
    Kaiser Bill – the Humpers
    Lonesome Cowboy Bill – the Velvet Underground
    Tell Ol’ Bill – Bob Dylan
    Billy – Bob Dylan
    Billy & Bonnie – Steve Earle
    Billy Boy – Josh White, Millard Lampell & the Almanac Singers
    Billy Hunt – the Jam
    Billy Is a Runaway – Iggy Pop
    Billy Stoned (the Stone Roses/Billy Joel/the Byrds mashup) – Go Home Productions
    Billy’s Bones – the Pogus
    Billy, Don’t You Weep For Me – John Wesley Harding
    Little Boy Billy – Ralph Steadman
    Wild Billy’s Circus Story – Bruce Springsteen
    Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues – Bob Dylan
    Blake’s Jerusalem – Billy Bragg
    Hey Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley
    Bo Diddley Is Jesus – the Jesus & Mary Chain
    Bo Diddley’s a Gunslinger – Warren Zevon
    Bob Dylan’s Blues – Bob Dylan
    Bob Dylan’s Dream – Bob Dylan
    Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream – Bob Dylan
    Song for Bob Dylan – David Boie
    Bobbo Viking – Magnus uggla
    Bobby Jean – Bruce Springsteen
    Viva Bobby Joe – the Equals
    Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin
    Bohman, Bohman – Rävjunk
    Bonnie Portmore – Lucinda Williams
    Bonnieroperan – Fria Proteatern
    Boris the Spider – the Who
    Duncan & Brady – Bob Dylan
    Wernher von Braun – Tom Lehrer
    Brenda – Todd Snider
    Brian Song – Monty Python
    Harry Bridges – Rancid
    Carrie Brown – Steve Earle & the Del McCoury Band
    Charlie Brown – the Coasters
    The Ballad of Hollis Brown – Bob Dylan
    The Ballad of Hollis Brown – Iggy & the Stooges
    John Brown – Bob Dylan
    Sally Brown – Teddy Thompson
    Sally Sue Brown – Bob Dylan
    Mr. Brownstone – Guns N’ Roses
    Lenny Bruce – Bob Dylan
    Bruces’ Philosophers’ Songs – Monty Python
    Buddy Holly – Weezer