Monday, August 30, 2010

Music and Misery #2 and #1

Finally! The last in my series on miserable cities and the music that comes from those cities. According to Forbes magazine the two most miserable cities in the US are...

2. Stockton, California
Population of around 300,000 with a metro area of around 700,000. Roughly 60 miles east of the San Francisco Bay area. Unemployment rate is a staggering 16.5% as of June 2010 (US national average is 9.5%). Violent crime is the 6th worst in the country, and second worst in California, behind Oakland, but well in front of the crime rates for Sacramento and Los Angeles. Drug cartels like to use Stockton as a hub between Mexico and Seattle and Vancouver due to Stockton's proximity to Interstate 5. The nearest major sports teams are in San Francisco, but Stockton does have several minor league teams to cheer for, such as the Stockton Ports Class A baseball team, which is a funny name to me since Stockton is in the middle of California and has no shipping industry. Stockton residents on average commute 46 miles each way, second worst in the country. They also have extremely high income taxes (as does the rest of California). What really sets Stockton apart in its misery is that fact that Stockton has the highest home foreclosure rate in the country. Up to two-thirds of homeowners owe more on their properties than the houses are now worth. At the peak of the foreclosure crisis in 2009, one in ten homes in the city were foreclosed on, decimating the tax base and subsequently, city government services.

I could only find two musicians from the Stockton area. The first being my secret boyfriend Stephen Malkmus and his seminal indie rock band Pavement.

Pavement - Fight This Generation.mp3
Buy: Wowee Zowee (1999, deluxe reissue 2006)

Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and actor Chris Isaak was also born and raised in Stockton.

Chris Isaak - I Wonder.mp3
Buy: Baja Sessions (1996)

1. Cleveland, Ohio
Population of about 430,000, with a metro area of 2.2 million. The net migration out of the metro area was 71,000 over the last five years. The unemployment rate for the Cleveland area was 9.3% in June of 2010, way down from its peak of 12.7% at the end of 2009. Cleveland is 8th worst in the nation for violent crime, which includes being the worst in the nation for sexual assaults and robbery, runner-up to Memphis in burglary, and second to its neighbor Toldeo in arson. For professional sports teams, Cleveland is extra miserable now that NBA superstar Lebron James has departed for Miami. The Cleveland Indians are one of the worst teams in the American League, and the Cleveland Browns had a pretty miserable football season last year, finishing 5-11. Forbes notes: "Cleveland ranked near the bottom when looking at corruption. Northern Ohio has seen 309 public officials convicted of crimes over the past 10 years according to the Justice Department. A current FBI investigation of public officials in Cuyahoga County (where Cleveland is located) has ensnared more than two dozen government employees and businessmen on charges including bribery, fraud and tax evasion." In 2007, Cleveland's home foreclosure rate was the highest in the country, but it has recovered some since then. Cleveland was recently awarded a $41 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for demolition of old homes, foreclosure prevention, and home rehabilitation. And the weather? The don't call it the "Mistake by the Lake" for nothing. My one and only trip to Cleveland involved freezing my ass off at the now demolished Cleveland Municipal Stadium while it rained and snowed at the same time.

Why can't Detroit and Memphis be the most miserable cities? It was a lot easier to find musicians from those cities. Despite the fact that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in headquartered in Cleveland, I can't find many artists from that city. (For what it's worth, I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and I was extremely underwhelmed. Maybe it's better now?) Here's what I got for Cleveland:

I thought Joe Walsh was from Cleveland, but he is actually from Kansas. He got his musical start playing in bands in and around the Cleveland area while he was a student at Kent State.

Joe Walsh - Rivers (of the Hidden Funk).mp3
Buy: There Goes the Neighborhood (1981)

Who doesn't love a good polka? If any of you are like me, and your relatives are of a northern/eastern European lineage, then you have had to dance polka at just about every family wedding you have ever attended. In fact, all of my parent's friends had sons so I had to polka with all of the boys at their various parties and camping trips. When I was of legal drinking age, I would dance the polka with random dudes at Brave Combo shows. The "Cleveland Style" or "Slovenian Style" of polka was invented and perfected in the upper Midwestern United States. Polka King Frankie Yankovic was born in West Virginia, but grew up in suburban Cleveland and popularized the Cleveland Style. He has recorded over 200 different polkas, and has won several Grammy's for best Polka album

Frankie Yankovic - In Heaven There is No Beer.mp3
Buy: Songs of the Polka King (1996)

Bonus! Neither this song nor this band have anything to do with Cleveland directly, but I love this lyric:

Pulling into Cleveland
In a seven-seater tour van.
There's 8 of us, I'm sleeping on the floor.

The guy that plays the banjo
Keeps on handing me the Old Crow,
Which multiplies my sorrow, I can't take it anymore.

Old 97's - Doreen.mp3
Buy: Hitchhike To Rhome (1999)


simon2307 said...

Check out Jeff Finlin(Cleveland born), has released some fantastic albums, my pick of the bunch Somewhere South of Wonder

Mechanical Forest Sound said...

Lots of awesomely miserable music from Cleveland, which was a wellspring of a lot of the ideas that went into punk music. Rocket From the Tombs bequeathed the world Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys — but also the great guitarist/songwriter Peter Laughner, who wrote this anthem that is totally worthy of being at the top of a list about misery. You'll recognize some of the lyrics that Wilco cribbed for "Misunderstood".

indierocker said...

...all by myself, all by my-se-eeeelf...

oh, come on, eric carmen is from cleveland!

how could you possibly forget that?!