The Best and Worst Songs about Ladders

The Best and Worst Songs about Ladders

30th January 2020

You might think that ladders are an unusual subject to sing about. Yet, some of the most influential artists in history have written songs about them in a variety of genres. How did they manage to fit this subject into their songs?   

Up the Ladder to the Roof – The Supremes

This all-female group were massively popular in the 1960s and 1970s. As well as being Motown’s most successful artists, they are also still classed as being America’s most successful vocal group thanks to their 12 number one singles.

In 1970, they turned to construction equipment for inspiration, as they implored listeners to “Go up the ladder to the roof where we can see heaven much better”. This tune was notable as being the first single to feature Jean Terrell in place of Diana Ross. It reached number 6 in the UK charts and hopefully inspired some people to climb ladders for a better view. 

Rope Ladder to the Moon – Jack Bruce

Ex-Cream bassist Bruce was invited to a party in a “house just by the moon”. How could he possibly be expected to attend it, though? The answer comes in the chorus, where he tells us about the existence of a lunar rope ladder that he can ascend.

This song was on Songs for a Tailor, which was Bruce’s critically-acclaimed 1969 solo album. This came following the acrimonious break-up of the legendary Cream, where Bruce, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker made up one of the most iconic rock bands of all time.

Ladders – Mac Miller

This 2018 song from Mac Miller doesn’t actually mention ladders, or even scaffolding or a step unit. However, it seems that he uses the idea of climbing a ladder as a metaphor for constantly improving and evolving in life.

Among the lyrics, he suggests that we “Put the lighter all the way up 'til we touchin' the sky”. Of course, this is among the deeply personal songs that he wrote and that were heavily analysed following his untimely death in 2018.

Snakes and Ladders – Joni Mitchell

In this effort from 1988, Mitchell reminds us that “Oh love is snakes and ladders”. It was on the Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm album and features Don Henley as a special guest artist. 

The Canadian folk singer never released Snakes and Ladders as a single. She released her last album in 2007 and has largely disappeared from public view while dealing with some serious health issues.

 Up on a Ladder – Radiohead

 “I'm stuck in the TARDIS” is the extremely promising opening line to this song. Thom Yorke then tells us that he has been charming snakes and is a puppet, before declaring “I've been climbing up this ladder / I've been wasting my time”.  His reason for climbing the ladder is never clearly explained.

Up on A Ladder was included on the second disk of the In Rainbows album that was originally released as a pay-what-you-want download in 2007. It has been suggested that it is some sort of metaphor for social climbing.