Friday, September 26, 2008



I've always been something of a geography buff. As a kid, I cherished my Atlases more than Barbies because if I needed to find a particular city, state or country, the only place Barbie could point me to was Malibu.

I awaited my parents' annual AAA membership renewal the way most kids anticipated Santa's arrival. Toys break, but maps last forever! And I aced Ms. Clark's ninth-grade geography class despite spending much of the period passing notes to my best friend (who got a D).

It saddens me to see how few people today seem to value geography, a fact recently driven home by a young friend who was surprised to learn that the "state of New Orleans" is actually a city in Louisiana.

Don't take geography for granted. It can equip you with valuable skills you'll need later in life — like, "George Eats Old Grey Rats And Paints Houses Yellow," which won't help you pass geography, but it will teach you how to at least spell it. A little geography know-how also goes a long way when it comes to map-reading — or as we ladies like to call it, "asking for directions."

Even stronger than my geography jones is my love of music, which probably explains why I know so many songs about geographical locations — and why I took another online message board user to task for including The Rolling Stones' "Sweet Virginia" in a list of tunes about U.S. states. Fact: It's about a girl, not our 10th state.

Anyhoo, let's continue the list I began in my last column featuring songs about Alabama through Massachusetts. Many of these were culled from my own collection and the musical Atlas in my brain, while others required extensive Internet research 'cause there ain't exactly a catalog of songs about Utah.

Without further ado, here's Michigan through Wyoming ... plus one to grow on:

* Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Especially in Michigan"

* Weird Al Yankovic, "Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota"

* Mountain, "Mississippi Queen"

* Ringo Starr, "Missouri Loves Company"

* Frank Zappa, "Montana"

* Bruce Springsteen, "Nebraska"

* Mark Knopfler, "Sands of Nevada"

* Sonic Youth, "New Hampshire"

* John Gorka, "I'm From New Jersey" ("It's like Ohio, but even more so.")

* Jill Sobule, "Somewhere in New Mexico"

* Billy Joel, "New York State of Mind"

* Melissa Ferrick, "North Carolina"

* Lyle Lovett, "North Dakota"

* Damien Jurado, "Ohio"

* Vince Gill, "Oklahoma Rising"

* Loretta Lynn, "Portland, Oregon"

* Glenn Miller Orchestra, "Pennsylvania 6-5000" (Also covered by the Brian Setzer Orchestra)

* Ike & Tina Turner, "Sweet Rhode Island Red"

* Archers of Loaf, "South Carolina"

* Liz Phair, "South Dakota"

* Arrested Development, "Tennessee"

* George Strait, "All My Exes Live in Texas"

* Camper Van Beethoven, "The History of Utah"

* Billie Holiday, "Moonlight in Vermont"

* Blessid Union of Souls, "Oh Virginia"

* Woody Guthrie, "Washington Talkin' Blues"

* Neil Sedaka "Wheeling, West Virginia"

* The Dead Milkmen, "I'm Living in Wisconsin"

* John Denver, "Song of Wyoming"

** BONUS: Ellis Paul, "Washington, D.C. 5/91"

Friday, September 12, 2008



Seems Hurricane Fay wasn’t the only thing out to sea when I wrote my last column. In my sleep-deprived delirium, I forgot my ABC’s and omitted the letter F from my list of hurricane names. So, first things first:

* Hurricane Federline: An ill wind frontin’ like it’s got mad hurricane skillz.

There. I feel better. Now on to this week
's subject …
In its quest to hip-up the state’s image, the Oklahoma Rock Song Advisory Panel has picked 10 nominees for its official state rock 'n' roll song, including JJ Cale's "After Midnight," Leon Russell's "Home Sweet Oklahoma," Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel," and for cool-kid cred, The Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?"

Personally, my first thought was Bruce Springsteen's "My Oklahoma Home," but the line, "When I bent and kissed her, she was picked up by a twister" ain't exactly a ringing endorsement for tourism. My second thought was, "The Flaming Lips is a really stupid name for a band."

Then my thoughts turned to Ohio-oriented tunes. Of course, there's our official rock song, The McCoys' "Hang On, Sloopy," inspired by a Steubenville woman who apparently lived in a very bad part of town where everybody tried to put her down. Then there's "Ohio," Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's reaction to the 1970 Kent State shootings, and The Pretenders' "My City Was Gone," Chrissie Hynde's diatribe against pollution and commercial overgrowth in Akron, her hometown.

My next thought: "Man, are all songs about Ohio this depressing?" Thankfully, I was able to conjure up a tune that doesn’t make me want to hurl myself into a pit of starving piranhas: Randy Newman's "Dayton, Ohio 1903," is a charming vignette of a lazy Sunday in a simpler time: Sing a song of long ago/When things were green and movin’ slow/And people stopped to say hello.

Here's the first installment of my list of U.S.-themed tunes. Some are oldies, some are indies, some are obvious and others are obscure, but you’re sure to find something to suit your state of mind.

* Jimmy Buffett, "Stars Fell on Alabama"

* The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, "Going to Alaska"

* Wilco, "Hotel Arizona"

* Michelle Shocked, "Arkansas Traveler"

* The Mamas & The Papas, "California Dreamin'"

* Johnny Cash, "You Wild Colorado"

* PrimeRib, "Rock 'n' Roll Connecticut"

* Perry Como, "Delaware" (What did Delaware? She wore her New Jersey, boys!)

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, "Florida Time"

Gladys Knight & The Pips, "Midnight Train to Georgia"

Elvis Presley, "Blue Hawaii"

B52's, "Private Idaho"

* Dan Fogelberg, "Illinois"

* Jackson 5, "Goin' Back to Indiana"

* Dar Williams, "Iowa (Traveling III)"

* Ashanti, "Kansas"

* Neil Diamond, "Kentucky Woman"

* John Lee Hooker, "Goin' to Louisiana"

* John Linnell (of They Might Be Giants), "Maine" (from the album, State Songs, on which 15 of 16 tracks are named for U.S. states)

* Vonda Shepard, "Maryland"

* The BeeGees, "Massachusetts"

Tune in next time for Michigan through Washington. And don't worry about omissions … I've hired a couple of first-graders to sing the alphabet while I type.