Readers Recommend – Songs About Being In Limbo

Well, we have done survival and we did songs about uncertainty some time ago.

If you want to save time looking the uncertainty one up, the resultant playlist was:

It’s Too Soon to Know – The Orioles
I Know But I Don’t Know – Blondie
Who Will the Next Fool Be – Charlie Rich
Hanging On a String – Loose Ends
The Weakness In me – Joan Armatrading
Flood – Tool
Seriocity – The Chameleons
Can’t Be Sure – The Sundays
For Today I Am A Boy – Antony and the Johnsons
What’s Happening?!?! – The Byrds

There’s a bit of overlap but being in limbo is usually something imposed on you rather than simply being uncertain in your own mind. Probably. Not necessarily. Not always. Anyway, interpret it how you will and I’ll try to sort the wheat from the goats. (you did that joke several weeks ago – ed)
If there are, in fact, any songs about actually being in the Catholic Church’s limbo I don’t know about them and I’ll be happy to be enlightened. Songs about other dimensions may well count. Songs about doing a limbo dance will be treated with the contempt I deserve.(you’ve done that one before too – ed)

So anyway – we’re off – again. Let the merriment commence. Sharpen your pencils, show your working and ponder the Council of Trent.

13 thoughts on “Readers Recommend – Songs About Being In Limbo

  1. It’s a lot easier for me, of course, if people who can access and use R/R continue to do so. Plus of course it’s better to have as many posts on that thread as possible. Will also check here though for any nominations that weren’t posted on the muvvership.

  2. Well I don’t think there can be a better song for this topic than Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Sitting here in Limbo’ from the Harder they come film and album.
    Here ’tis:

  3. I just refreshed the R/R tab on my computer and now can’t comment or, indeed, see any previous comments. Could just be a Grauniad site blip I suppose. Will post results tomorrow on the Facebook group page and here. Hopefully on the R/R site too. Will have to wait and see.

  4. R/R Songs about being in Limbo – Results!

    So many limbos, so little time. Well, no time at all, really. Not in limbo. Just a kind of stasis, waiting for something to happen while nothing ever does.
    The Catholic Church had two main kinds of limbo. One for unbaptised babies; “Limbus Infantium” and one for the patriarchs and allied righteous folks of Old Testament times; “Limbus Patrum” aka The Bosom of Abraham. Sadly this would make for a very short and possibly rather dull playlist so we have…..
    Waiting for somebody else to decide whether they want you or not, refusing to leave your home or accept death, sitting, waiting for a change, having faith without knowing, observing “the death knells of a relationship”, feeling you have “empty hearts and empty souls”, waiting for the return of someone you love, hardly daring to hope but not wanting to give up that hope, stranded, far from where you should be, waiting for the train to take you home, begging someone to stop beating around the bush and say what they really mean, feeling like you’re trapped and incriminated by your own success, wanting to deny a break-up that should never have happened, feeling that you have done your best, not just your duty and now you’ve been dropped into a limbo not of your own making.

    Oh, and an instrumental. That too. There’s always room for an instrumental I say.


    When I first heard The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” I kind of assumed it was a cover of some mid-sixties tune. Maybe by The Kinks or The Troggs or some US garage band.
    Turns out that was pretty much the effect they were aiming for. The kind of song they used to play at rehearsals and early gigs before they had written much of their own. “Our attempt at writing a classic” as Mick put it. I think they succeeded.
    Lord Huron was/is a completely unknown quantity to me. “Ghost on the Shore” is suitably, well, ghostly and ethereal. “A beautiful song sung from the, rather echoing, realm of one man’s limbo”. Can’t put it better than that.
    There were three versions of “Sitting (Here) In Limbo” nominated this week. All worth playlisting, all excellent. So perversely I’ve picked the one which wasn’t on Youtube. At least not the plaintive, studio recording which first caught my ear.
    The Neville Brothers in this YT live version give it a laid back, loping performance, the voice perhaps not quite so smooth but still full of emotional power.
    Kirsty MacColl’s deceptively bright and tuneful song is about a couple who should no longer be together. “He said baby don’t go, so she sat down again and they said they’d be friends” Now she “sleeps like a woman when he wakes like a man”.
    The Dears song mentions purgatory which, I’m taking as a close relative of limbo, and laments wasted lives. The accompanying YT video portrays scenes from the film Atonement. One long take of scenes from the evacuation of Dunkirk.
    Rachel and Becky Unthank call the cattle home but wait (in vain?) for the beloved child to return. I find this track utterly hypnotic. Is that percussion or a rare occasion of recording-studio clog dancing? Whatever it is, it conjures up a feeling of timelessness, of stasis.
    Mississippi John Hurt doesn’t remember how to yodel but after a bit of a chat he finally sings about waiting for the train, far from home. It’s worth the wait for us. I hope it was for him.
    “Unreleased Motown” announces the video for The Velvelettes song. Was it? I can’t imagine why. The song is a fantastic slice of Motown pop/soul. A vacillating guy puts them in limbo with his prevaricating ways and they’re not having any.
    The Mountain Goats were quite unknown to me until I started listening to the songs nominated on this blog. This one is absolutely irresistible. “I am never ever gonna get away from this place, let the camera track me from the footlights to the wings”. The perils of typecasting and fame, fatal fame. They don’t want me to mention Hotel California so I won’t.
    Rainbow provide us with a classic rock song with an unusually vulnerably lyric. “Thoughts fly back to the break-up. These four walls are closing in” I know the feeling.
    I wasn’t initially sure about how to justify including an instrumental piece here but the nominator’s comment “a slight unease about it, a sense of waiting, a sense of resolution always nearly coming but not quite getting there” sums up the music so well that, hey, I don’t have to do the heavy lifting! Beautiful, moving and leaves us hanging in mid-air.
    Al Bowlly of course is in heaven. Has been for some time. The injured, destitute soldier recalls the music, the dances and ponders his own fate, stuck in limbo, sentenced to misery by the country he served, and reckons Al had the better deal. This Richard Thompson track has been knocking at the door of the playlists for some time. In it comes. No longer in limbo even if the narrator is.
    We are all in limbo but some of us are looking at the stars.

    A List
    The Clash – Should I Stay or Should I Go
    Lord Huron – Ghost on the Shore
    Neville Brothers – Sitting in Limbo
    Kirsty MacColl – Dancing in Limbo
    The Dears – Postcard from Purgatory
    Rachel Unthank and the Winterset – Felton Lonnin
    Mississippi John Hurt – Waiting for a Train
    Velvelettes – Stop Beating Around the Bush
    Mountain Goats – Liza Forever Minelli
    Rainbow – Since You’ve Been
    Ludovico Einaudi – Limbo
    Richard Thompson – Al Bowlly’s In Heaven

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