A Soundtrack To Geography

Something I want to start doing more of around here is making playlists. It’s the modern version of the old mix tape, mixed CD, you name it. I find it fun to pick a theme or concept then find songs that fit that theme. I’ve just been a bit hung up on where to begin with that.

So a buddy of mine is taking some college classes and geography is one of those. I thought I’d try to help him out some by making a playlist that incorporated the theme of places. I took geography in high school. I did really well on the final, where we had to identify each US state and its capital, each Canadian province and its capital, and each other country in the world and its capital city. This was just after the fall of Communism too so I didn’t get it easy like all the really old people who were in school before me.

So anyway, I spent a lot of time working on this playlist about geography and then found out my buddy is taking geology. Dammnit. Anyway, here’s a playlist about places or whatever. I’ll highlight some of my choices below but the playlist itself has a lot more on it.

They Might Be Giants – Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

I can’t see any other way to kick this playlist off than with this tune. One of the most iconic songs involving a place that there is. It’s also an important lesson – if you’re from, say, the 1200’s and you’re used to calling the city Constantinople, then you need to update your terms, dude.

I have been to Istanbul, back in the late ’90’s while in the military I got there a few times. It was a really nice city, not sure what’s up in Turkey these days.

Joe Walsh – Rocky Mountain Way

One of Joe’s best songs, quite possibly the absolute best, and honestly a song I might have to consider as a future S-Tier entry.

We can pretend this song is about the majesty and awe of the Rocky Mountains all we want – we all know it’s about getting high. There’s no way it isn’t. And it’s fitting, as Colorado would later become the nation’s capital of blazing up. I personally don’t partake but I’m pretty sure glaucoma or arthritis or some such shit is coming around the bend. Maybe I’ll do what the rest of the US is doing and move to Colorado and get my Rocky Mountain Way.

Emma Ruth Rundle – Apathy on the Indiana Border

As a bit of trivia, ERR appears on three songs of this list. This is obviously one of them. I’m not doing write-ups on the other two but they’re on the list.

I guess she lived in Louisville when she recorded this album, hence the “…on the Indiana border” part of the title. Maybe also the Apathy, I don’t know. I’ve heard nice things about Louisville but I’ve never been myself.

Spinal Tap – Hellhole

As far as I know there isn’t an actual location called “Hellhole,” but there are some odd city names out there. There’s a Hell, but no Hellhole.

But I feel the lads in Spinal Tap spelled it all out with this, one of their stronger tracks. That hellhole can be anywhere and is often where we are. For all the good and bad of my current locale, there is no doubt it is a hellhole. But it’s my hellhole.

Amon Amarth – Guardians of Asgaard

We can debate whether or not Asgaard is real. My take is that it was until that third Thor Marvel movie, idk.

Can one be a viking in 2021? It’s made fun of a lot but I think one can. Have Norse or Danish ancestry (I do), listen to Amon Amarth (I do), drink mead (I have) and have one of those sweet Ragnar Lothbro hipster haircuts (I don’t yet but I will). You can be a viking in 2021 and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

This is a cool song from the band’s creative height and it also features a guest shot from LG Petrov of Entombed. RIP man.

Frank Black – Los Angeles

Solid tune from the Pixies frontman when he embarked on a solo career. It was a pretty popular jam back then.

I have been to the City of Angels. I’ll say that it’s interesting and, in parts, spectacular, but it’s also not really my speed. I did enjoy seeing the sights of Sunset Strip, where a lot of the music I got into came from. But yeah, I’ll probably leave Los Angeles to itself and sail for other waters.

Wayne Hancock – Tulsa

Yeah, some other country guy has a song about Tulsa time or whatever but Wayne Hancock is the man so I’m gonna roll with his tune instead.

I dig Tulsa. I’ve been there a handful of times over the years, always for concerts I think. I have quietly wondered about moving there more than once but I don’t figure I’m shoving off to there or anywhere else anytime soon.

Oasis – Columbia

Yeah I’m totally cheating here because the song isn’t really about a place. But, Columbia is a place. It’s a lot of places, in fact – it appears there are 30 Colubmias in the United States. I’m presuming that the ones in South Carolina and Missouri are the most well-known, but I’m not sure.

I do know that Oasis wasn’t talking about either of them in this song. The song is really about nothing, from the sound of it. A story I saw on the Oasis subreddit suggests that this tune was meant to be an instrumental intro song for the band but they chose to add words to it at the last minute. I have no way of sourcing any truth to the claim but it sounds plausible.

Hank III – Trashville

So the grandson of the legendary Hank Williams is obviously talking about Nashville, but he calls it Trashville because it’s funny and also because he was sick of the establishment country music industry. It’d be a recurring theme in his prime during the mid- and late-00’s.

I’ve never been to Nashville, probably a place I oughta visit someday. I guess they have a lot of stuff there.

Dropkick Murphys – I’m Shipping Up To Boston

I don’t really mess with these guys much but it seems like an auto-include song on a list of songs about places. I kinda figured this might be one of the top ones people scream at me for leaving off if I don’t include it. So here you go.

Belinda Carslile – Heaven Is A Place On Earth

I mean, the song literally has “place” in the title. Earth is a place I’m quite familiar with. I’ve been here awhile and reckon I will be a bit longer. I’m not a billionaire and can’t fly my own penis rocket off of this rock so Earth it is.

I’m probably also including it because Belinda was my first crush. This song hit MTV when I was like 10 or something and I was all about her. Sure, her turn in the Go-Go’s was far more relevant to my musical interests but that wasn’t really what my interest in her solo stuff was all about.

As for the Heaven part of it all? I’ll avoid any theological debates and just offer up one last tune that gets to the point.

AC/DC – Highway To Hell

Enough said, I think. I know where my road is paved and where it’s going. And I’ve got one hell of a soundtrack to get me there.

That does it for my first playlist. Let me know what I might have left out – there are literally tons of songs that talk about places. And I guess, to be fair to my buddy in geology class, I’ll throw together something later on about rocks.