Hamburg Song

Today, on the way the spend the day caring for our youngest grandson, a random mix from my phone served up “Hamburg Song” by the English alternative rock band Keane. It’s been over a year since I posted something by them, and I enjoyed the contemplative flow of this keyboard and vocal piece as I was driving on a very cold morning (-26C, -15F).

“Hamburg Song” comes from Keane’s second studio album, Under the Iron Sea (2006), a collection they describe as “darker” than Hopes and Fears (2004). Iron Sea was Keane’s last album before the electric guitar took a more prominent role in their recordings and live performances.

As I’ve learned from musicians talking about album creation, they deliberately and methodically set out the order of songs. On Iron Sea, “Hamburg Song” creates a slow and reflective break between the downtempo “A Bad Dream” and the uptempo breakup song “Put It Behind You” (while you’re here, check out my post on that song). This interlude encourages the listener to slow down and pay attention to a piece about tensions that existed in the friendship between keyboard/synthesizer player, bassist and backup singer Tim Rice-Oxley and lead singer, pianist and guitarist Tom Chaplin.

Rice-Oxley told Q magazine in October 2007, “With ‘Hamburg Song’ I started writing almost about myself. The first verse I’d written about my wife, about what she must feel about me sometimes. And then we got into the studio and it all poured out and turned into a song that was really about friendship. I did think, ‘This is going to be quite awkward.’ But if it’s painful to write or to play, then that’s kind of a job well done.”

“Hamburg Song” was the first song Keane played as an organ/voice-only piece (after a lengthy intro, the lead instrument shifts to electric piano, and light cymbal taps add additional colour and texture in the last quarter of the song).

“I don’t wanna be adored
Don’t wanna be first in line
Or make myself heard
I’d like to bring a little light
To shine a light on your life
To make you feel loved

No, don’t wanna be the only one you know
I wanna be the place you call home

I lay myself down
To make it so, but you don’t want to know
I give much more
Than I’d ever ask for

Will you see me in the end
Or is it just a waste of time
Trying to be your friend
Just shine, shine, shine
Shine a little light
Shine a light on my life
Warm me up again

Fool, I wonder if you know yourself at all
You know that it could be so simple

I lay myself down
To make it so, but you don’t want to know
You take much more
Than I’d ever ask for

Say a word or two to brighten my day
Do you think that you could see your way

To lay yourself down
And make it so, but you don’t want to know
You take much more
Than I’d ever ask for”

“Hamburg Song,” by Tom Chaplin, Tim Rice-Oxley and Richard Hughes.
Lyrics retrieved from

One online source quotes a podcast where the song title is discussed: Rice-Oxley was writing the song on a tour bus in the USA, and the band demoed it in a studio while on tour in Hamburg, labelling the tape box “Hamburg Song,” and never got around to changing the title, feeling it fit the mood of the piece.

The song is a lovely tribute to a friendship; a heartfelt request from one to the other, seeking to bridge the divide between them. I’m sure we all find ourselves in that place sometimes.

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here. If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll click on “like” and leave a comment; it would be great to hear from you!

Please enjoy the audio from the Keane YouTube channel:

With my best wishes,


2 thoughts on “Hamburg Song

  1. Thanks Steve.
    The first verse spoke strongly to me. The following verses first of all disappointed me – seemed the singer stopped speaking of himself and started blaming..or projecting onto his partner – then it seemed that he might have been realizing the way the relationship really was. Sorrow.

    Made me think.

    His voice is beautiful as is the music.

    Liked by 1 person

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