50 States of Song Part 1: Alabama to Georgia

When I was in third grade I learned all 50 states in alphabetical order thanks to a catchy tune. Now I'm hoping to stick that bit of trivia in your heads this week, just in time for the new school year by celebrating each state with an appropriate song.

Alabama: Phosphorescent, "It's Hard to Be Humble (When You're from Alabama)" Only a truly lazy man would have popped Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Doors in here, and that's not how Rocks Off plays this particular game. Instead, here's Matthew Houck, better known as Phosphorescent, as he throws out an ode to his home state from 2010's Here's to Taking it Easy.

Houck keeps the somewhat moody lyrics of his previous work, but a solid driving beat along with hip-shaking horns keeps his sorrowful homesickness from going grim. A fine anthem from a real American songwriting treasure.

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Alaska: Chiodos, "There's No Penguins in Alaska": Every time I hear Chiodos I feel like I should be playing a Tony Hawk game. This track from their debut album All's Well That Ends Well is actually about dreaming for a girl while you do that ridiculous petal-pulling thing with a flower.

In short, it's not about penguins or Alaska. Even if it was, the song title would still be a lie. Thanks to stowaways on fishing boats there is a small but significant presence in Alaska. Yet another Warped Tour band leads me astray. Sigh.

Arizona: George Strait, "Ocean Front Property" It's not George's greatest song, but I've literally been hearing this cut all my life and I love it so. Strait assures the girl who is leaving him that he won't miss her, only to add with chagrin that if she'll believe that he's got a beach house in Arizona he's like to sell her.

Just so we're all clear, this is ridiculous because Arizona is landlocked. However, there are some really sweet lakefront properties for sale. Man made lakes, but still.

Arkansas: Charles Manson, "Stronger" I maintain that old Charlie Stab Wounds was not a bad musician when you really break it down. Oh, he was never brilliant or anything, but with a little producing he could have possibly seen some action in the music scene.

On the other hand, there's the always slightly unnerving fruits of his unbridled crazy first efforts, like this one here about being an Arkansas squatter who doesn't want the government to make him go to school, in case it turns him foolish. There's a moral in there somewhere.

List continues on the next page.

California: Rob Zombie, "(Go to) California" I have a love hate relationship with this song. It's not only my favorite Zombie track off of The Sinister Urge, it's my favorite Zombie track ever, yet it was dropped right in among the last of his Hellbilly Deluxe style stuff and right before the hype regarding House of 1,000 Corpses.

Being so stylistically different than everything else going on in his catalog at the time, it winds up being ignored, which is sad because I wish everything Zombie did sounded like this. It sums up the death and glamour of Hollywood better than anything since The Kinks "Celluloid Heroes."

Colorado: The Gathering, "Colorado Incident" Holland's The Gathering was really pushing the transition from goth metal to prog rock by the time 2000's If then else rolled around. It's a great step forward for the band, and a must have in any good depressed person's collection, thanks to its hopeless tones.

This song is not about the massacre at Columbine High School, as was rumored when it came out, but was actually inspired by a show the band had to cancel because of exhaustion while on tour.

Connecticut: Jim Boggia, "I Realized This Afternoon While Driving to Connecticut" Jim Boggia had tasted number one hit glory by penning a "Glory" for Jaci Velasquez in 1998, but as a working songwriter in a time when the music industry was undergoing extreme upheavals, he found indignity after indignity heaped on him by desperate record label execs, who were trying to fit his skills into whatever genre was popular that week.

He seethes about them during this song, on which he's doing a five hour drive to yet another meeting with the suits. It's a fun song that should be required listening for all aspiring musicians.

List continues on the next page.

Delaware: Drop Nineteens, "Delaware" During the early '90s, shoegaze was doing well in Britain, but not so much here in America. Drop Nineteens was one of the few acts that was trying real hard to transport the sound, but of course that all got swept away in the rise of grunge. Too bad, because Delaware is a kick-ass record.

The title track is all about going out to Hollywood to live the rock star life, but ultimately crawling back home to your nondescript home in the East when it's over. What state says "nondescript" better than Delaware, really?

Florida: Chumbawumba, "Celebration, Florida" If the only thing you know about Chumbawumba is "Tubthumping," then I pity you. They were a group of total anarchist geniuses, and literally every time I see a link to something involving them I think, "Oh man, what the hell did they do this time?" Like the time they licensed a song to GM then donated the check to groups dedicated to mounting information campaigns against corporations like GM. That stuff kills me. Sadly, they hung the whole thing up last year.

This song is a tribute to a town built by Disney in the '90s that was designed to be the perfect small town with the perfect small town values. Of course it immediately drew comparisons to Stepford, and you can't miss the mockery of Chumbawumba in the track. "There's a bake sale at the school house and they're selling innocence. They're keeping out the deviants to protect the residents." Man, I miss these guys already.

Georgia: State Radio, "State of Georgia" Two years ago the state of Georgia carried out the execution of Troy Davis, who had been convicted of the 1991 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail. The trial of Davis was an international affair, with many people believing that he had been falsely convicted. Nonetheless, after two decades of appeals he was put to death by lethal injection. One year later, State Radio released this song, which whether you believe Davis was guilty or not, is an incredibly powerful piece of music detailing a man's mind as he comes close to the needle.

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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