July 8, 2009

California Googlin’

The Googlin' Gate BridgeSo, I’m going to San Francisco and on to the Googleplex in the heart of Silly Valley, California for Science Foo Camp (scifoo) 2009. As I put the Flowers In My Hair (what’s left of it) and confirm my booking at the Hotel California I’m not just California Dreamin’ but California Googlin’. Just how many American and Californian musical clichés it is possible to cram into one blog post and accompanying iPod playlist? Now there’s no shortage of lyrics to choose from, which is handy because it is a long journey from the UK to California and I’m extremely bored waiting for a flight westwards. So with a little help from a well known search engine and just like in the novel High Fidelity by Nick Hornby here is a (personal) top twenty-ish all time greatest hits:

  • Let’s start with The Beatles since they played their last ever gig in San Francisco (at Candlestick Park), so it seems appropriate. On Get Back Paul McCartney sings

    Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner

    But he knew it couldn’t last

    Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona

    For some California grass

    Get back, get back, back to where you once belonged

  • And what better to follow with than some Beatles-inspired rivalry in the shape of The Beach Boys who when they’re not Surfin’ USA they are singing about California Girls

    I wish they all could be California

    Girls, girls, girls yeah I dig the…

    I wish they all could be California Girls

    Are The Beach Boys possibly the band with the most cliches-per-album in the history of mankind?

  • On the subject of girls women, we’ll move swiftly on to L.A. Woman by The Doors where Jim Morrison sings

    Are you a lucky little lady in the city of light?

    Or just another lost angel?

  • Talking of lost angels, we’ll move onto the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, where it’s tempting to include Under the Bridge (is the city I live in the city of Angels?) but instead we will dream of Californication here Anthony Kiedis sings:

    Space might be the final frontier

    But it’s made in a Hollywood basement…

    It’s understood, that Hollywood

    Sells Californication

  • Getting to the final frontier will be a long journey involving lots of California Waiting thanks to Kings of Leon

    Hey California waiting

    Every little thing’s gotta be just right

    Say while you’re tryin’ to save me

    Can’t I get back my lonely life?

  • How about a spot of U2, it’s tempting to pick The Hands That Built America, but I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Googling For, let’s plump for Bullet the Blue Sky where Bono sings

    As a man breathes into his saxophone

    And through the walls you hear the city groan.

    Outside is America

    Outside is America


  • This playlist is getting darker by the minute thanks to America by Razorlight where Johnny Borrell sings:

    All my life

    Watching America

    All my life

    There’s panic in America

    Oh Oh Oh, Oh

    There’s trouble in America

    Oh Oh Oh, Oh

  • Moving onto Miserable Mancunian Morrissey, who fled his hometown of rainy Manchester, for some Californian sun. It doesn’t seem to have cheered the old man up much though because on America is Not The World he sings:

    America your head’s too big,


    America, Your belly is too big

    And I love you,

    I just wish you’d stay where you belong

    With all Science (Stanford, Berkeley and the rest) Technology (Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, eBay, Intel, Yahoo, you name it, etc) here in Silicon Valley you could be forgiven for thinking that America actually was the world if it wasn’t for the memo from Morrissey.

  • Talking of miserable old men First We Take Manhattan, then we take Cohen, by which I mean Leonard Cohen who on Democracy (is coming to the USA) sings:

    I’m sentimental

    If you know what I mean

    I love the country

    But I can’t stand the scene

    This neatly sums up the love-hate relationship with America.

  • Enough of the doom and gloom, let’s try and finish on a more positive note starting with cheery Britpop supremos Blur on the song Look Inside America Damon Albarn sings:

    Look inside america

    She’s alright, shes alright

    Sitting out in the distance

    But I’m not trying to make her mine

  • Sitting out in distant California it would be very rude not to send back Letter from America with some help from The Proclaimers

    When you go

    Will you send back

    A letter from America

    Take a look at the railtrack

    From Miami to Canada

  • From Miami, Canada to the Redwood Forest and with a bit of Woody Guthrie this Land is Your Land:

    This land is your land, this land is my land

    From California to the New York Island

    From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters

    This land was made for you and me.

    This song is so stratospherically popular, it featured at Barack Obama’s inauguration earlier this year.

  • Talking of America presidents, there is an interweb rumour going around that Obama will be at Science Foo Camp this year, probably just a rumour, but plausible since unlike his predecessor, Obama is big on Science. So we’d better make sure we’ve got some Dead Kennedys, specifically California Über Alles which has the lyrics

    I am Governor Jerry Brown

    My aura smiles

    And never frowns

    Soon I will be president…

  • It would be rude not to include his Bobness Bob Dylan who on the song Heartland sings

    My American Dream

    Fell apart at the seams.

    You tell me what it means,

    You tell me what it means.

  • What does it mean? Perhaps we should ask an educated person like The Graduate and Mrs. Robinson where Paul Simon sings:

    Here’s to you Joe Dimaggio

    Our nation holds its lonley eyes to you

  • It’s unlikely to be lonely in the Hotel California (thanks to the scifoo organisers who have paid for a nice hotel) and the Eagles:

    Welcome to the Hotel California

    Such a lovely place

    Welcome to the Hotel California

    Such a lovely place

    Such a lovely face

    Plenty of room at the Hotel California

    Any time of year, you can find it here

    You can checkout any time you like,

    But you can never leave!

  • I hope we can leave the hotel to Take a Walk on the Wild Side with Lou Reed

    Holly came from Miami F.L.A.

    Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.

    Plucked her eyebrows on the way

    Shaved her legs and then he was a she

    She said Hey Babe

    Take a Walk on the Wild Side

  • After all that wild walkin’ and hitch hikin’, we’ll need to do some Sittin’ (On the Dock of the Bay) with Otis Redding who says

    I left my home in Georgia

    Headed for the ‘Frisco Bay

    Cause I’ve had nothing to live for

    And look like nothin’s gonna come my way

    Sittin’ on the dock of the bay, wasting time.

  • There will be no time wasting with Joni Mitchell and California,

    Oh, but california

    California Im coming home

    I’m going to see the folks I dig

    I’ll even kiss a sunset pig

    California I’m coming home

    Will you take me as I am?

    Does anyone know what a sunset pig is and why you’d want to kiss one?

  • Last but not least, we’ll have The Mamas & the Papas with their dreamy San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).

    If you’re going to San Francisco

    Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

    If you’re going to San Francisco

    You’re gonna meet some gentle people there

    followed by California Dreamin’

    I’d be safe and warm

    If I was in L.A.

    California dreamin’

    On such a winters day

I’m done Caliofrnia Googlin’ but there is lots more on the almost infinite playlist of American and Californian music. The flight is now California Boardin’ so that’s enough California Bloggin’ for now. What is in your top twenty? In writing this, I’ve discovered Shazam and VocalSearch [1,2] wouldn’t that be great, a search engine you could sing to?


  1. Bryan Pardo, David Little, Rui Jiang, Hagai Livni, Jinyu Han (2008) The VocalSearch music search engine In JCDL ’08: Proceedings of the 8th ACM/IEEE-CS joint conference on Digital libraries (2008), pp. 430-430. 10.1145/1378889.1378977
  2. William Birmingham, Roger Dannenberg, Bryan Pardo (2006) Query by humming with the VocalSearch system Communications of the ACM, Vol. 49, No. 8, pp. 49-52. 10.1145/1145287.1145313
  3. Picture of the Googlin’ Gate Bridge by worldsurfer, adapted by dullhunk with shamelessly-unsubtle product placement courtesy of a well known search engine.


  1. Jeez Hullers, how long did you have to wait for? And how can you include The Proclaimers and not The Boss?

    Keep off the California Grass

    Comment by Paul Dobson — July 9, 2009 @ 1:28 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Paul, it was a long long wait for that flight 🙂 As for “The Boss” he gets his ass kicked by The Proclaimers and he doesn’t have any comedy spectacles either. No contest.

    Comment by Duncan — July 9, 2009 @ 1:52 pm | Reply

  3. Shame 2Pac didn’t get a mention, Dunc…

    “This go out for 92.3, and 106
    All the radio stations that be bumping my ****
    Making my **** sell quadruple quadraple platinum, hehe
    This go out to all the magazines that supported me
    All the real *************
    All the stores, the mom and pop spots
    A&R people, all y’all *************
    LA, California Love part ************* Two
    Without *** *** Dre”.


    Comment by Neil Swainston — July 10, 2009 @ 7:51 am | Reply

    • **** ** Neil, sweet. How could I miss that one? Respect.

      Comment by Duncan — July 10, 2009 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

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