Creative Uses of the Train Metaphor in Ten Popular Songs

April 23, 2022 by No Comments

Railroads have often been the subject of popular songs, most notably Arlo Guthrie’s The City of New Orleans and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Midnight Special. While those particular hits were written about actual railroads, many other songs were given metaphorical train titles.

Bob Dylan, who won a Nobel Prize for his writing, once compared doomsday to the slow arrival of a train. Here are ten other songs that have names that use that outdated romantic mode of transportation as a metaphor.

Love Train by the O Jays

Recording in the post-Vietnam anti-war era of the 1970s, the R&B hitmakers sang about a train car full of love.

Cat Stevens Peace Train

War was in the headlines when this folk rock hit took the radio by storm, offering a vision of a world without violence.

Elvis Costello’s Ghost Train

Maureen and Stan are a couple that no one ever notices, as if they were intangible spirits. The tune has that typical Costello pun, like “A waitress gave her a black eye, she don’t see no stars.”

Slow Train at Dawn by The

Matt Johnson used the concept to emphasize a long night he suffered through, and it ended up being one of the highlights of his second album Infected.

Ghost Train through the Bongos

This title track comes from an album the alternative rockers recorded in 1986, only to be put on hold for only about thirty years.

Woody Guthrie’s Little Black Train

Whether we like it or not, says the popular legend here, this metaphor of death comes to us all at some point.

Rolling Stones Silver Train

Here we have the railway car that represents a prostitute that the singer was involved with during the recording of Sticky Fingers, but the song did not appear until the Goatshead Soup album.

Ozzy Osborn’s Wacky Train

When the former Black Sabbath frontman confesses that he’s drifting off the beaten track, most fans had already bought into that idea years before.

Johnny Burnette’s Lonely Train

This country classic is told from the perspective of an obviously lonely man waiting for a director to bring him someone to love.

Bob Welch Mystery Train

“Ebony Eyes” and “Sentimental Lady” are the biggest hits on the French Kiss album, but this song describes a woman who is difficult to understand.

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