Right on the heels of my post on the toe-tapping Longitude and Latitude song, a bit of background information on my other favorite coordinate-oriented song, Map Ref. 41° N 93° W by Wire. I quoted a bit of the lyrics from this song in the Making Maps book, to close the Geographic Framework chapter:
An unseen ruler defines with geometry
An unrulable expanse of geography
An aerial photographer over-exposed
To the cartologist’s 2D images knows
The areas where the water flowed
So petrified, the landscape grows
Straining eyes try to understand
The works, incessantly in hand
The carving and paring of the land
The quarter square, the graph divides
Beneath the rule a country hides
Interrupting my train of thought
Lines of longitude and latitude
Define and refine my altitude
In 1978 Wire made their debut in the USA playing at CBGBs in NYC for 5 nights. When this engagement was completed I flew to LA to meet my girlfriend of the time and have 2 weeks vacation staying with friends. At the end of this I flew back to New York to hangout.
On the return daytime flight the visibility was perfect and I experienced a stunning aerial view of the Rockies and the vast Mid-Western plains…this was the inspiration for the first part of the text. I studied Geography at both O & A level and developed a fascination for maps and their reading… On this occasion one was able to read the epic landscape…vast gorges, an incomparable 2D flatness, meandering rivers, levees, oxbow lakes etc….with an unrelenting gridded road system imposed on top).
Some months later I had a similar sensation whilst traveling by road through the reclaimed agricultural lands of Holland. Whilst in the US it had been the road system here it was a grid system of drainage dikes. The vast green/ glass houses also made a memorable impression sparkling in the autumn sun….”Crystal palaces for floral kings”
The two pieces of writing dovetailed to produce one text on 2 locations…the title was conceptual… notionally the very centre of the Mid-west…I guessed and found a place called Centreville nearby… this seemed appropriate, poetical yet hardly scientific!
I knew a geographer had to have written the song.
Map Ref. 41°N 93°W was Wire’s sixth single, taken from their third album (one of my favorite albums of all time), 154.
The cover for the single opens this post.
Other album covers with maps here.