In our attempt to slog through the 50 states of the fine U.S., we now stop at the biggest one, the one way up north where it's still cold, but with the help of global warming should one day see quite a boom in beachside properties. The last frontier? I prefer to think of it as the "The First Frontier of The New World Order." Catchy and ominous, doncha think?
North To Alaska"--Boxcar Willie: Yes, I'm aware that Johnny Horton had the hit with this song. But I haven't had many chances to promote Boxcar Willie, a man whose albums I do not own, but whose late night TV ads once left me deeply moved. Slim Whitman I knew had sold more records than Elvis and the Beatles combined because my parents bought them all. But Boxcar Willie never seemed real and he still doesn't. Even though I know like the tooth fairy, he's got lots of spare cash to give away.
"Anchorage"--Michelle Shocked: This is the one where she admits to being a housewife up in Anchorage, Alaska. I love these songs where the truth hits people a little late. Kind of like when someone's been at a job for 20 years and suddenly it dawns on them that this is probably going to be about it for them. Barring a layoff, the corner office ain't so bad when you consider how long it took to get there. Besides, you hire enough pretty new assistants and it's almost like going on vacation without the family.
Alaska And Me"--John Denver: This dude knew it was always about geography. Why else would you change your name from Dusseldorf, or whatever it was, and turn it into Denver? Because people are more likely to ski to your music if they can relate to it? Testing the grounds for further unlikely success, Denver recorded this song where he puts himself on equal footing with this grand state. I'm sure he thought about calling it "Me & Alaska" but that was obviously taking things too far.
"From Alaska To L.A."--Wanda Jackson: This tough rocker chick knew she wasn't going to sell any records singing the praises of Alaska, yet she was drawn to its eerie, distant magic. So in order to cover all bases, she made it seem like a journey to a place that everyone equates with showbiz and sure enough she became a mega-star because all the industry people saw she was willing to "play ball" and acknowledge the greatness of the place where the people who sign her checks live and raise their very tan children.
Stephanie Says"--The Velvet Underground: I know, where are the Residents? And all those other more deserving acts who worked "Alaska" into their titles. But no, I'm putting my foot down here. Lou Reed was a master of understatement and rather than call this song "It's So Cold In Alaska," he called it "Stephanie Says" because he knew it was more important to impress a woman than a land mass. And who can argue with a lyric such as "It's so cold in Alaska"? Are you going to say it isn't true? That Reed has somehow missed the core essence of the state? Have you watched the Weather Channel? Abrams and Bettes seem to think it gets pretty darned cold up there. I wouldn't mess with them.