#1090: 1988, Michelle Shocked, Anchorage

by Jackie_South on August 26, 2017

This year, my almost annual visit to the USA has taken me to “the largest state in the Union” – both the USA’s and my 49th state.

There are a number of songs I could have picked to reflect this: perhaps Dwight Yoakam‘s North to Alaska (or the Johnny Horton original).

Or, if I was to go very dark, Lou Reed‘s Caroline Says II, with the lines But she’s not afraid to die/All her friends call her “Alaska” and  the final refrain It’s so cold in Alaska.

Instead, I have gone with this great Eighties’ folk track from an artist who has inexplicably not previously featured on Songs to Learn and Sing. It’s a great personal tale of making contact with an old friend from back home after moving to New York, only to find that the friend has also moved on and further away, both geographically and in lifestyle.

I can’t say that I felt particularly anchored down in Anchorage, although it’s wet August weather did remind me a little of childhood Autumn half-term visits to the city’s English twin town of Whitby.

The track comes from her superb Short Sharp Shocked album: disappointingly, her subsequent output never really measured up (although there is a case to be made in favour of Arkansas Traveler), particularly after she found God in the mid-90s. Back in 1988, she might have been the very last artist you might expect to be homophobic, yet by 2013 she was characterising her views to her audiences as “God hates faggots”.

But let’s draw a veil over that and remember happier times, when many thought that the short-haired, un-made up folkster was the very thing she ended up hating.

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