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Threefer: October Songs

Last month, we listed 10 great songs about September. Because October doesn’t have quite as many well-known tunes, I decided to highlight just three for 360°Sound’s ongoing Threefer series.

Pet Shop Boys – “My October Symphony”

Songwriters: Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe
Genre: Dance-pop
Released: 1990

“My October Symphony” is a deep cut about Russia from the Pet Shop Boys’ excellent fourth album Behaviour. The track, which features guitar work from The Smiths’ Johnny Marr, opens with a choral shout of the Russian word for “October” sampled from Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 2. Singer Neil Tennant has said the song was partly inspired by Ian MacDonald’s book The New Shostakovich about the music of Shostakovich.

The song is from the perspective of a composer who wrote a symphony in dedication to the October Revolution of 1917, during which the czarist regime was overthrown by the Bolsheviks. Now that the Soviet Union is collapsing, he wonders if he should “rewrite or revise” it and “change the dedication from revolution to revelation.” This is just one of many examples of the Pet Shop Boys turning weighty political topics into catchy and sophisticated pop songs.

Amy Winehouse – “October Song”

Songwriters: Winehouse, Matt Rowe, and Stefan Skarbek
Genre: R&B/jazz
Released: 2003

“October Song,” which lifts the melody of the jazz standard “Lullaby of Birdland,” was written in memory of Winehouse’s pet canary Ava (named after actress Ava Gardner, while the album it’s from, Frank, was named after Gardner’s former husband Frank Sinatra). Winehouse buried her beloved canary in some woods outside of London, singing “Lullaby of Birdland” as she laid her to rest. “It was a sad time,” Winehouse, who died in 2011, recalled to MOJO in 2008, “but I got a good song out of it.”

Broken Bells – “October”

Songwriters: James Mercer and Brian Burton
Genre: Indie rock
Released: 2010

Broken Bells is an indie supergroup consisting of Shins’ frontman James Mercer and producer Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse. “October,” the third single from their eponymous debut album, peaked at #20 on Billboard’s LyricFind U.S. chart. I’d never heard of this chart before. According to Billboard, the LyricFind charts rank the top-trending lyric searches through LyricFind’s syndication service.

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