It’s summer, and that means vacations, and that means maps. Since most of us would no longer be able to successfully open a gas station map much less than use it, jumping to map apps has become instantaneously ubiquitous, and a little sad for knowing we’ve all lost yet another cognitive ability. So, much thanks to Boston real estate developer and music obsessive, Constantine Valhouli, who’s tried to add a little musical fun to our digital white-flag waving. He and some pals have put together this incredible map of New York City-centric songs and their locations. Scroll over those familiar little red dots, and you get the song title and a video/track link. Pretty neat, and exhaustively thorough. If you’re heading to the Big Apple, it makes for a great ready-made rock ‘n’ roll tour guide.
First off, who are you, what are your NYC credentials, and what is your history in music…or map-making?
I once played drums in a band that opened for Quiet Riot. On their comeback tour. But let’s not talk about that. Ever since then, my contribution to music is not trying to make any more of it. My experience in map-making? You’re looking at it. This is the first map I’ve ever done. By the way, did you know the root of the term “amateur” is “amare”—to love? So, while the word amateur now has a slightly murky connotation, it used to mean someone who did what they did out of love for it.
Where did you grow up?
I haven’t grown up yet. But I split my time between Boston and New York. In Brooklyn, I live between the Beastie Boys’ Root Down and Billy Joel’s You May Be Right.
What do you do to pay the rent?
Real estate development. I just finished a project outside of Boston where a colleague and I transformed a textile mill built by an ancestor of Edie Sedgwick into spaces for tech and non-tech start-ups, dining, shopping and entertainment. We took historic buildings that were going to be demolished and re-assembled them inside the mill. So there’s an interior streetscape of buildings from the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s inside. Someone described it as “Silicon Valley meets Diagon Alley.”
What made you come up with this song mapping idea?
Coffee, mostly. Those songs are collectively a love letter to NYC. It’s like E.B. White’s Here Is New York, only with a much better bass line and back beat. And it’s fun to see how your block or neighborhood has been mythologized by, say, Leonard Cohen or Etta James or the Ramones. It’s about 200 songs, but people have been sending us suggestions and corrections. I know we’ve missed dozens (if not hundreds) of great songs about the city. Please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you think of any.
How long did it take for you to compile the map?
One weekend. Lots of coffee. I was driving to NYC from Boston, and all I could think of was more entries for the map. So I ended up parking my car and taking the train the rest of the way so I could have Wi-Fi and continue to work.
I dig that you have songs going back to the 1940s. But what is your favorite kind of music, some favorite bands?
This year, a friend and I challenged each other to mostly listen to music that was made in the last few years. It’s been a great way of forcing ourselves to find new bands. Although some of my favorites are Stellastarr, Freezepop, the Cooling Towers, the Raveonettes and the Bischoffs.
Are there any songs on it that you hate and thought about leaving off for taste reasons?
My lawyer advised me not to answer that question. And then she laughed maniacally and pointed out several glaring omissions from the map. And then billed me for her time. Thanks, man.
I think all the songs try to concentrate on certain locations, not just songs about clubs, or restaurants, or statues, etc., right?
We started out with specific locations (I think the first pin was the Ramones’ 53rd and 3rd), but we expanded it to other references (Jay Z talks about walking into Nobu like it was Whole Foods). But it was a challenge to realize that many of the songs referencing Chelsea and Soho weren’t about New York, but were about London. And I was completely bummed out when folks pointed out that Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Posse on Broadway was about Seattle.
You have a lot of time on your hands, don’t you?
If we were on Skype, you’d see that I’m making a universally understood gesture at you right now.
If you wanted to, what’s the next town you’d like to tackle in this map manner?
My hometown, Boston. Or Los Angeles.