Almanac Music: Churches, Chapels and Cathedrals



Winchester Cathedral. [Wikimedia Commons.]


Churches, Chapels and Cathedrals


This week’s popular song theme is ‘churches, chapels and cathedrals’; in other words, songs to be chosen would be those which have in their titles – or, at the very least, mention – these kinds of places.


As usual, dear readers, you are warmly invited to contribute your own theme-related song choices and discussion in the ‘Comments’ section. To get you thinking, I’ve listed mine.


‘Get Me to the Church on Time’, written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe, performed by Stanley Holloway (1956)


A ‘song from the musicals’, this catchy, jaunty tune is sung by the exuberantly vulgar Alfred Doolittle character, the dustman father of Eliza, in the Lerner and Lowe musical My Fair Lady. The source for this show was George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, of course.





‘Winchester Cathedral’, written by Geoff Stevens, performed by the New Vaudeville Band (1966)


This novelty pop song, with more then a touch of music hall thrown in, was a big international hit in its day. It is an oddity for various reasons: its use of a chorus of whistlers, the effect of the lead vocal coming through a simulated megaphone, and the singer’s rhetorical position of addressing a cathedral and blaming it for his girlfriend leaving: ‘Winchester Cathedral / You’re bringing me down / You stood and you watched as / My baby left town…’





‘Chapel of Love’, written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector, performed by Bette Midler (1972)


This is a bright, much-covered pop tune, with a central theme of marriage. Initially, it was a big hit for The Dixie Cups in 1964.





‘Cathedral’, written by Graham Nash, performed by Crosby, Stills and Nash (1977)


This beautiful Crosby, Stills and Nash folk-rock ballad, from their fifth album, CSN, possesses, as one may expect, some gorgeous vocals, the lead being sung by Graham Nash in this instance. The song is centred upon disillusionment with organised religion, Christianity in particular.





‘Hammer Horror’, written and performed by Kate Bush (1978)


This dramatic late seventies song, from Kate Bush’s second album, Lionheart, is addressed to the hunchback of Notre Dame. It mentions the church’s bell tower, as well as the famous church itself: ‘You stood in the bell tower / But now you’re gone / So who knows all the sights / Of Notre Dame?’


Hammer refers to the famous British film company, known for its horror films.





‘Mr Damage’, written by John Brewster, Doc Neeson and Rick Brewster, performed by the Angels (1979)


This is a classic of heavy Oz pub rock, from the Angles third studio album, No Exit. Lyrically, the song is basically a literate assemblage of gobbledegook in which a powerful royal advisor and religious figure, Mr Damage, at one point ‘walks through the door of the sacrificial church’ then ‘stands at the altar, sermon of the search…’. One shouldn’t take the song too seriously, though, as it basically exists to create some serious head banging.





‘Crying in the Chapel’, written by Peter Blakeley and Aaron Zigmon, performed by Peter Blakeley (1989)


What a wonderfully melodic, soul-tinged and well-sung song by Australian Peter Blakeley! It was a big Oz hit in 1990, and was on Blakeley’s second studio album, Harry’s Café De Wheels.





‘Modern Love’, written and performed by David Bowie (1983)


From Bowie’s 1983 Let’s Dance album, this rock/pop/soul/jazzy/call-it-what-you-will song is a danceable joy. It was also a worldwide hit. The ‘church on time’ bit repeated in the chorus is the thematic link.





‘Temple of the Lord’, written by Chris Bailey, performed by The Saints (1986)


This powerful rock number, featuring a powerful brass section, as well as gospel style church choir backing vocals, is from Oz band The Saints’ seventh album, All Fools Day. In the context of the song, lead singer Chris Bailey performs a role of akin to a church preacher preaching to his audience. And of course, a ‘temple of the lord’ often refers specifically to a church of some kind.







Well, it’s that time once more! Over to you. Your responses to this topic are most welcome. Please add your own choice of a song (or songs) concerning this week’s ‘churches, chapels and cathedrals’ topic in the comments section, along with anything more you’d like to say.


[Note: Wikipedia has been a good general reference for this piece, particularly when it comes to checking dates and other details.]




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Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, will be published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Does Springsteen by country singer, Eric Church count? Probs not.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for opening the batting, Rick.

    In this instance, I think you’ve nicked it to the keeper. Let’s hope for a big score in your second innings!


  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Some classics there KD. We had all the soundtracks from the big musicals growing up and I loved ‘My Fair Lady’, some great songs there, including your selection.

    1966 was a big year for music imho, and ‘Winchester Cathedral’ was huge at the time – I have the 45rpm sitting in a cupboard somewhere with the rest of my 45s etc.

    I’d forgotten about ‘Cathedral’ by CSN, I have that album at home but I cannot remember the last time I would have played it. Well over 20 years ago I would think.

    ‘Sacred Rock’ by Goanna?

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Many thanks for your comments, Col.

    I’d certainly give ‘Solid Rock’ a guernsey. It’s a song connected to a sacred place.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    You’d get an argument from me that the Chris Bailey-only Saints is the same entity as the Ed Kuepper-included version when counting Saints albums, but I’ll put that to one side KD. This is tougher than it seems.

    The Church of Indifference appeared on Prehistoric Sounds, Saints album #3.

    Continuing the theme, The Aints have The Church Of Simultaneous Existence from the album of the same name.


    Temple of Love (Sisters of Mercy)
    I Hear Those Church Bells Ringing (Dusk)
    Modern Love (Bowie)
    Church Of The Poison Mind (Culture Club)
    Nutbush City Limits (Ike and Tina Turner)

    Struggling to recall something apt by The Church

  6. The three-album rock opera Joe’s Garage by Frank Zappa with its references to the First Church of Appliantology, owned by L. Ron Hoover. Equal parts vicious satire and funny. ‘A Token of My Extreme’ is the song.

  7. Date to Church, The Replacements
    Monday Morning Church, Alan Jackson
    Sunday Morning Coming Down, Johnny Cash
    My City of Ruins, Bruce Springsteen
    One Step Up, Bruce Springsteen (which could be called My Mariage of Ruins)
    Walk like a Man, Bruce again
    Late for Church, Drive-By Truckers, who, incidentally, are touring next March and highly recommended.

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Swish. Interesting, stimulating comments and selections, as usual. Regarding the definition of ‘The Saints’, all I’m noting is what’s on the album cover; in the instance concerned, the album is All Fools Day, of course. That said, I’d agree with your underlying point about which incarnation of the band is best viewed under ‘The Saints’ name.

    I’d already listed Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’, too, and agree with you that this week’s theme ‘is tougher than it seems’, though we may ultimately change our view on this.

    Thanks for your input, as always, mate.

  9. Kevin Densley says

    HI Mickey. I’ll have to listen to at least some of the Frank Zappa rock opera you’ve referred to. Thanks for putting it forward.

  10. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Rick, for the choices you’ve made in terms of your ‘second innings’. There’s some fine shot making here!

    To select one, for the moment: I just had a listen to ‘Late for Church’, and enjoyed it a lot. The American South, in so many ways, is a rich cultural milieu.

  11. California Dreaming – the Mamas and Papas
    West Nashville Ballroom Gown – Jimmy Buffett – The woman in the song has not gone to Church for 36 Sundays and Jimmy doesn’t go to Church either according to Paper Thin Mustache. On the other hand , Bobbie Gentry was talking to Billy Joe at the church last Sunday Night (Ode to Billy Joe)
    Sunday Morning Coming Down is a Kris Kristofferson song. Johnny Cash had a much better voice than Kris but I still rather like Kristofferson’s version.
    There was also The Wedding sung by Julie Rogers in 1964. A really boring song that was clearly written before the rise of second wave feminism.

  12. Kevin Densley says

    Great stuff, Dave. Thanks for these. Yes, the classic ‘stopped into a church…’ bit from ‘California Dreamin’ – how could that be forgotten?

    Your bits and pieces of explanation in relation to other relevant songs were helpful, too.

    And here’s another for the list, a good ‘un that dropped into my head after my initial list. It’s ‘Far Away Eyes’ by the Rolling Stones (1978):

    ‘Well the preacher kept right on saying that all I had to do was send
    Ten dollars to the church of the Sacred Bleeding Heart Of Jesus
    Located somewhere in Los Angeles, California
    And next week they’d say my prayer on the radio…’.

  13. Roger Miller’s “England Swings” – “Westminster Abbey, the Tower of Big Ben, the rosy red cheeks of the little children”.
    Jackson Browne’s “Rebel Jesus” is a profound and beautiful song with a church reference.
    And Elvis Presley’s “Crying in the Chapel” (different to Blakeley’s).

  14. Padre – 3 versions I know of, Toni Arden, Marty Robbins and Elvis Presley’.
    The Three Bells (the Jimmy Brown Song) – The Browns

  15. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, PB – all great choices.

    And listening to Elvis’s ‘Crying in the Chapel’ again reminds me how much I love The Jordanaires, his backing vocalists for much of his career.

  16. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Fisho. Thanks for your input. The three versions of ‘Padre’ illustrate how much a song can be shaped by the qualities of the artist involved.

    ‘The Three Bells’ is right on theme, too, and a classic of its kind, I believe.

  17. Damn Dave, how did I miss West Nashville Ballroom Gown? One of JBs best. Loved singing it out loud in my 20s, especially the last two lines. May have had something to do with my own rejection of Catholicism.

    Hey KD, we can’t go past Greystone Chapel from Johnny Cash’s quite remarkable At Folsom Prision live concert album. The song was written by a FP inmate, Glen Sherley and the story behind the song and the man is sad and fascinating.

    L.A. County by Lyle Lovett
    Follow your Arrow by Kasey Musgraves
    You Want it Darker, Leonard Cohen
    Grandpa was a Carpenter, by John Prine
    The Little Lady Preacher, by Tom T Hall

  18. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for this contribution, Rick. It’s a joy to receive your pearls of musical knowledge. I have heard about ‘Greystone Chapel’ and its back story, but will need to have another listen to refresh myself in relation to it.

    I try to listen to any songs that anyone lists in these music posts, if I don’t know them or they have become faded in memory terms.

    ‘You Want it Darker’ – what a title and song from ‘Laughing Lennie’!

  19. Frank perich says

    Have to think laterally on this one. Perhaps Bells of St Mary’s by various including Bing Crosby from same name film. On the same theme Mission Bell by Donnie Brooks. Going out on a limb with Jimmy Littles Royal Telephone. No direct reference to a building however church a reliable place to get a connecting line.

  20. Brompton Oratory – Nick Cave

  21. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your contribution, Frank. I like the way you’ve gone with the theme, how you’re thinking about it, especially in relation to the Jimmy Little song.

  22. Kevin Densley says

    Hi JTH.

    Thanks for this song choice. What a beautiful song! Nick Cave’s a Living National Treasure, isn’t he? (Though I don’t know that he’d like to be called that.) In particular, I love how ‘Brompton Oratory concludes, capturing in language a mood that’s almost impossible to articulate:

    ‘Outside I sit on the stone steps
    With nothing much to do
    Forlorn and exhausted, baby
    By the absence of you’

  23. Frank perich says

    Hopping in again. Discovered Dwight Yoakam Heather Myles Duet – Little Chapel – where the preacher looks like Elvis.

  24. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks again, Frank, the Yoakum/Myles song is a lovely one – I love the Mexican-influenced brass in it, too.

  25. One of my favourite bands, The Dropkick Murphys.
    Their track “Famous for nothing” – the opening song of their album “The Meanest of Times” contains references to church, indeed there is a line “The bells of St Mary’s kept ringing”.

  26. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your contribution, Smokie – a bit of Celtic punk is welcome!

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