(United) States of Mind

I don’t know why I was thinking about this on my walk the other day, but I found myself wondering how many US cities or states are mentioned in Elton songs. I was guessing maybe about a third of the states (of course, NY and CA would obviously be the majority).

As far as I can tell (from memory and from searching eltonography.com), it appears that 28 of our 50 states and/or their cities are not explicitly referred to: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

So that means 22 are…which is actually more than I originally thought. Cool! The most unexpected finding – that Mississippi is in at least 5 songs.

Of course, it is quite well-known that BT had a fascination with America, especially the “wild west” and (apparently) the South – so the references make sense, particularly earlier on in their careers. “I grew up wanting to be an American. Everything I listened to or read as a child was American. I think I was meant to live here.” (And that he does).

Lest you think these songs are all about fondness and wonder, they’re not. They run the gamut. I’m pretty sure he knows more about American history than I do, and though he points out some things that we arguably do not want to remember, he always tells a brilliant story.

Note that I am not counting references to USA, US, America, etc – or “The South,” “The Union,” or even “Hollywood” as an entity. And I know there are many, many more that are implicit or allusive – probably way more than I realize.

Here’s what I came up with:

Alabama

  • One Horse Town: It sure is hell living in a one horse town / There’s half a mile of Alabama mud bed ground
  • Porch Swing in Tupelo: It’s a slow road on down that old Natchez Trace / Through Alabama cotton fields to a state of grace
  • The Ballad of Blind Tom: From the times of King Cotton / May we present to you / All you Jim Crow monkeys / From Harlan County down to Tuscaloo

California

  • Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance): Chicago, L.A. / Every place, every way / Bite your lip, get up, get up and dance
  • Blues Never Fade Away: She breathed her last on the cold stone floor of a Hollywood arcade
  • From Denver to LA: If I say goodbye it’ll grieve you, Denver means the whole world to you / But today I’ve got to make my way from Denver to L.A.
  • Georgia: When it’s nighttime down in Georgia, it’s daytime in L.A.
  • Goodbye Marlon Brando: Say goodbye to the Beach Boys from the Palisades to Kona
  • Heavy Traffic:
    • She just got off the last bus from Montecito
    • It’s one on one from Las Palmas to the Golden Gate
  • Heels of the Wind: I’m no E ticket ride to Disneyland, I’m no cushy first class flight
  • Just like Noah’s Ark: From San Francisco to Ohio I’ve seen beauty and disaster
  • Mansfield: In between the Star of David and the California moon / The Santa Ana winds blew warm into your room
  • Postcards from Richard Nixon: In a bright red Porsche on Sunset I saw Steve McQueen / I guess he’s just about the coolest guy I’ve ever seen / And for you and me that speeding car is how it’s going to be / I see no brakes just open road and lots of gasoline
  • Snow Queen: The Snow Queen reigns in warm L.A. / Behind the coal black gates
  • They Call Her the Cat: She got stitched up bitchy by an old M.D. / Now she’s headed out to Hollywood or so I’m told
  • Tiny Dancer: Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band
  • A Town Called Jubilee: “Gone to California” used to be what folks would say

Colorado

  • Caribou (Album): Recorded at Caribou Ranch, Colorado
  • From Denver to LA: If I say goodbye it’ll grieve you, Denver means the whole world to you / But today I’ve got to make my way from Denver to L.A.

Florida

  • Turn the Lights Out when You Leave:
    • You say you’re goin’ to Jacksonville ’cause our love’s all worn out
    • I hear it’s hot in Florida (or as he sings it, Flah-ri-da)

Georgia

  • Georgia: Talking about oh Georgia take me to your Southlands / I sometimes feel my life is rolling on / Oh Georgia lead me through your heartlands / I need to see them one more time before I’m gone
  • Made in England: I had Little Richard and that black piano / Oh that sweet Georgia Peach and the boy from Tupelo
  • Peachtree Road (The Album)
  • The Rumour: As the rain falls I listen to the radio / And try to memorize the words to “Georgia On My Mind”

Hawaii

  • Goodbye Marlon Brando: Say goodbye to the Beach Boys from the Palisades to Kona

Illinois

  • Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance): Chicago, L.A. / Every place, every way / Bite your lip, get up, get up and dance / Illinois, Santa Fe / Do do do do do what I say / Bite your lip, get up, get up and dance

Kentucky

  • The Ballad of Danny Bailey: So mark his grave well `cause Kentucky loved him / Born and raised a proper, I guess life just bugged him
  • The Ballad of Blind Tom: From the times of King Cotton / May we present to you / All you Jim Crow monkeys / From Harlan County down to Tuscaloo (Harlan County, for real! Can you say Justified!)

Louisiana

  • Dixie Lily: Ploughing through the water with your whistles blowing / Down from Louisiana on the Vicksburg run
  • Honky Cat: Well I read some books and I read some magazines about those high class ladies down in New Orleans
  • Medley (Yell Help, Wednesday Night, Ugly):
    • Well I met this woman down in New Orleans / Lord she built just like a dream
    • On Bourbon Street / Well the ugliest woman you’ll ever meet
  • My Father’s Gun: I’d like to know where the riverboat sails tonight / To New Orleans well that’s just fine alright
  • I’ve Got 2 Wings: I was born in Cedar Grove / That’s in Louisiana
  • Look Ma No Hands:
    • Walked to New Orleans down a Louisiana road
    • I sailed to Mandeville across Lake Pontchartrain

Maine

  • Georgia: When it’s springtime down in Georgia, it’s winter time up in Maine
  • Holiday Inn: Oh I don’t even know if it’s Cleveland or Maine / With the buildings as big and rooms just the same

Massachusetts

  • Chasing the Crown: I saw the tea float in Boston / I saw the live wire shock them
  • Holiday Inn: Boston at last and the plane’s touching down / Our hostess is handing the hot towels around

Mississippi

  • Amazes Me: That magnolia state got a hold on me / I got no blues to preach, just Mississippi company
  • Dixie Lily: Ploughing through the water with your whistles blowing / Down from Louisiana on the Vicksburg run
  • Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream: In this room all alone I dream of you / In this drawer I found someone I never knew / Now I pop a top and stay up late with Gideon / And fall asleep to visions of Meridian (Special note: My son lived in Meridian, MS for a couple of years. I’ve actually been there, and I’ve seen the wayside markers for Jimmie Rodgers).
  • Made in England: Give me that sweet Georgia Peach and the boy from Tupelo
  • Porch Swing in Tupelo:
    • There’s a porch swing in Tupelo in the shade of the South
    • It’s a crisp golden Autumn on the Tennessee line / Rolling down to Mississippi like you headed back in time

New Mexico

  • Bite Your Lip (Get Up and Dance): Illinois, Santa Fe / Do do do do do what I say / Bite your lip, get up, get up and dance
  • Look Ma No Hands: Been down in Roswell when the Martians came
  • Shoulder Holster: She put a pistol in her shoulder holster / She took her car up from Santa Fe

New York

  • Empty Garden: What happened here as the New York sunset disappeared / I found an empty garden among the flagstones there
  • Island Girl: I see your teeth flash, Jamaican honey so sweet / Down where Lexington cross 47th Street
  • Levon: When the New York Times said God is dead and the war’s begun / Alvin Tostig has a son today
  • Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters:
    • But now I know that rose trees never grow in New York City
    • This Broadway’s got, it’s got a lot of songs to sing / If I knew the tunes I might join in
    • I’ll go my way alone / Grow my own / My own seeds shall be sown in New York City
  • Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters Part 2:
    • I used to think that New York City fell from grace with God
    • And Central Park looks like a Christmas card
    • Spanish Harlem still sounds good to me / Yeah Mona Lisa’s getting older / Standing in the shadow of Miss Liberty / While I walk along the west side / Down through Little Italy / Searching for the city that / That took away the kid in me
  • My Kind of Hell: Peddlers filled the New York streets selling watches from a tray
  • Oscar Wilde Gets Out: A golden boy in velveteen landed in New York / The past was so seductive when the paid to hear you talk
  • Wouldn’t Have You Any Other Way (NYC):
    • Caught an innocent smile from a taxi at the lights / Not something you’d see on a New York street
    • New York City I’d really like to stay / New York City I wouldn’t have you any other way
  • You’re So Static:
    • Some Park Lane lady in a shady bar took a fancy to the watch I wore
    • If you’re gonna spend the summer in New York City / Them women oh oh oh they’re gonna slice your pie

Ohio

  • Holiday Inn: Oh I don’t even know if it’s Cleveland or Maine / With the buildings as big and rooms just the same
  • Just Like Noah’s Ark: From San Francisco to Ohio / I’ve seen beauty and disaster

Oklahoma

  • Rolling Western Union (Unreleased): I had a wife while on the job a hundred miles on back / She died in Oklahoma and I laid her by the track

Pennsylvania

  • Look Ma No Hands: Been to Philadelphia the day it was closed
  • Philadelphia Freedom: Cause I live and breathe this Philadelphia freedom / From the day that I was born I’ve waved the flag / Philadelphia freedom took me knee-high to a man / Yeah gave me peace of mind my daddy never had

Tennessee

  • Gone to Shiloh:
    • Gone to Shiloh for the Union / Shoulder to shoulder, side by side / Gone to Shiloh, hope springs eternal / When flags and bullets start to fly
    • Pray we see him alive and well in the fall here / Than that God-forsaken place in Tennessee
  • Leather Jackets: Is Memphis real or just a song / Three thousand miles from home
  • Porch Swing in Tupelo: It’s a crisp golden Autumn / On the Tennessee line / Rolling down to Mississippi like you headed back in time
  • Too Many Tears: Why a balcony in Memphis Tennessee seems trapped in time

Texas

  • Poor Cow: Then she stays to nag at Dallas`cause she hates those Texas girls
  • Texan Love Song: We’re tough and we’re Texan with necks good and red
  • Too Many Tears: Did you go to Dallas on that day / Have you been to where they broke a dream

Virginia

  • Oscar Wilde Gets Out: Baccarat and champagne flutes, tobacco from Virginia
  • Son of Your Father: Well there’s two men lying dead as nails on an East Virginia farm

Wyoming

  • American Triangle: Western skies’ don’t make it right / ‘Home of the brave’ don’t make no sense / I’ve seen a scarecrow wrapped in wire / Left to die on a high ridge fence / It’s a cold, cold wind, it’s a cold, cold wind / It’s a cold wind blowing, Wyoming

So here’s what it looks like on a map – I’m not sure what it tells us, but it’s kind of interesting. (And I’m just happy that Flah-ri-da made the cut):