The English Oxford Dictionary defines infrastructure, as the “The basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.”. When you think of infrastructures, most of you will no doubt think of endless motorways, gigantic airports, bridges, viaducts, dams and other large and modern works of engineering.
However, going back to that second definition by the English Oxford Dictionary, infrastructures are elements that allow us to carry out our daily activities more easily. In addition, going beyond the obvious, they are the means through which we live, dream, share, travel and learn.
Infrastructures are the streets where we grew up and played; they are the motorways crossing impossible landscapes and bringing us closer to other places and other people; the airports where, together with millions of other people, we let our dreams fly; the museums and schools where we learn; in short, all of the places where we generate memories which will be a part of our lives forever.
It seems inevitable that all of these elements around us end up becoming a part of popular culture. Many artists throughout history have reflected in their songs places, moments and feelings which pay tribute to the importance of the infrastructures we build and manage in our everyday lives, an importance that goes beyond their mere objective utility.
We’ll therefore take you on a walk along music’s most recent history, and celebrate World Rock ‘n’ Roll day by telling you a little bit about the most significant songs on infrastructures that we’ve been able to find. And, while we’re at it, give you our Spotify playlist so that you can take these songs with you on your coming holidays. Ready? Let the journey begin!
Let’s start by the simplest and nearest, our STREETS. The places where we live our lives, where children play, where we do our shopping, get together and celebrate. The streets making up our neighbourhoods, home to thousands. Streets which, thanks to the work of companies such as Ferrovial Services, are lit, kept clean and fitted with suitably maintained facilities.
Although there are numerous examples of songs about streets, such as Love Street by The Doors or A Street by Leonard Cohen, sadly recently deceased, perhaps more than any other the much acclaimed Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen will be for ever present in the eyes and ears of several generations. Released in 1994, it won four Grammy Awards and an Oscar as the best original film song. Jonathan Demme, director of the film Philadelphia, commissioned the song from Springsteen himself.
E-Street Band, the Boss’s current band, plays with some of the most acclaimed musicians in the world and takes its name from the street of that name in Belmar (New Jersey) where they used to rehearse.
But talking of actual places, we must needs mention that special street, the “LANE”, which is also a term used for motorways, as in our famous managed lanes. The Californian group The Eagles released the song Life in the fast lane in their iconic album Hotel California, but the most popular song with this theme is undoubtedly Penny Lane by The Beatles.
Penny Lane was released in 1976 as a single from The Beatle’s Magical Mystery Tour album. It was written by Paul McCartney while he waited for John Lennon at a bus stop near Penny Lane, and describes everyday life in this Liverpool district where they both lived (Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs; On the corner is a banker with a motorcar;…).
Talking of The Beatles, we have to mention the release of their Abbey Road LP in 1969, referring to a street in the city of London where the EMI music studios used to stand. This is where the group recorded most of their songs, and from 1970 onwards they became known as Abbey Road Studios. The cover of their album, by John Kosh, creative director of Apple Records, would also go down in the history of musical iconography. Interestingly, as it was a busy street, only six photographs could be taken: this was the one chosen out of the six.
“ROAD”, however, can also mean a road connecting several places, and with this meaning there are numerous songs. Not for nothing have roads been silent witness of some of the most incredible stories, reflecting a strange but wonderful sense of freedom.
And here we have other iconic figures, such as John Denver and his song Take me home, country roads, or, of course, Bob Dylan – who recently received the Nobel prize for literature – and his Dirt road blues, second song of the album Time out of mind, released in 1997, winner in the following year of 3 Grammy Awards for best album of the year, best folk album, and best male rock vocal performance.
But if there’s one particular type of road in the world of music, that crowns them all, that’s HIGHWAYS. The roads managed by Cintra, which keep traffic flowing in the world’s largest metropolitan areas. The roads that allow cities to continue growing, companies to expand their operations, and people to widen their horizons for leisure and work.
Let’s really get into the world of rock here. Although there have been several songs written about specific, existing motorways (such as Highway 20 or Highway 61, for example), here we’ll select three: Highway Star by Deep Purple, Highway Chile by Jimmy Hendrix and Queen of the highway by The Doors.
But heads above all these and probably one of the best-known song openings by Australian group AC/DC is Highway to Hell. The title of the song has many times been attributed to the way in which the group’s guitarist, Angus Young, used to describe their tours in the United States, but other sources say that it stemmed from Canning Highway, in Western Australia, close to Perth, which ran from the home of Bon Scott (second singer of the band) to a rock bar called The Raffles which existed in the 1970s.
But where would our highways be without TUNNELS? Probably one of the most symbolic and imposing types of infrastructure, of which Ferrovial Agroman has built more than 500 kilometres. They help people and goods cross difficult geographies, and are complex works of engineering which connect seemingly impossible-to-reach places. At this point, we’ll choose Dire Straits’ magnificent Tunnel of Love, the first song in the band’s third album Making Movies, released in 1980, with Roy Bittan, from the E-Street Band, playing keyboards. As you can see, everything’s connected, both in music and in infrastructures.
And to end this post, a selection of songs on the world of AIRPORTS. Back in the 1970s, music legends The Motors were singing Airport, and in the 1990s REM were talking to us of Airportman. So, we don’t want to miss this opportunity of bringing you two songs about Heathrow Airport, where Ferrovial Airports is a major shareholder and industrial partner.
The first, a fast-paced instrumental song released by Van Morrison in 1995, called Heathrow Shuffle, where the rhythm seems to describe the myriad things that happen on any given day at this London airport, which in 2016 catered for over 75 million passengers. The second, a much more recent song, was released in 2016 by Welsh band Catfish and the Bottle men, is simply called Heathrow. It is a song which describes one of the thousands of personal stories which happen in and around our infrastructures, and which ultimately give meaning to what we do.
We manage thousands of kilometres of highways, millions of passengers use our airports, and countless people use the services and engineering structures we build. And all of this, believe it or not, contributes to the soundtrack of our lives.