Love Songs for Geoscientists

I am frequently earwormed by the alt-country band Uncle Tupelo’s song New Madrid, in which the narrator begs an intraplate seismic zone to somehow restore his lost love:

Come on do what you did
Roll me under New Madrid
Shake my baby and please bring her back

So for Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d poke around the iTunes store and see if I couldn’t find something else to be earwormed by. Something a little less relentlessly cheesy than The Earthquake Of Your Love.

As it turns out, geological love songs are hard to find – and when you do find them, they’re likely to be depressing (or else they’re a “hot lava” orogeny). Plate tectonics for some reason always moves us apart, never together.

  • Top of the Fair’s The San Andreas Fault is breaking me it’s breaking me away from you oh
  • Blair Tefkin’s melancholy Geology uses deep time to emphasize the impermanence of love

… can anyone think of some better ones?


  1. Julian wrote:

    Ahaha! I guess I’m not the only one who gets relentlessly earwormed by “New Madrid”! I found it purely by accident, and immediately was taken by both the melody and the refrain. The more times I listen to it, though, the more I realize that the entire song is all about geek lurve, and there’s a reason for its intraplate setting. I’m trying to convince the bluegrass group in which I play (badly, but I play!) that we should adapt it.

    As for others…
    The Sundowners also did a song called “San Andreas Fault”:
    Hello, operator, can you get me someplace else? Anywhere but here would be all right. It feels like we are standing on the San Andreas Fault, and you and I are running out of time.

    And there’s a geeky Spanish and English song by Kevin Johansen, called “La falla de San Andres” (are we sensing a trend here?), that involves an anniversary date getting trashed by an earthquake, with comedic sound effects and puns.

    If you wanted to go the “referential in context” route, there’s also Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move.”

  2. Maria Brumm wrote:

    A reason for the intraplate setting? Is it that California isn’t hicksville enough that you need an earthquake to get any attention to your town from snotty New Yorkers, or is there a geekier reason?

  3. Julia wrote:

    “Dinosaur of Love” by Eva Moon is my top choice (no MP3 but lyrics are available). Plenty of geology in there. And there’s nothing sexier than prancing around the bedroom in one’s smalls, singing “I’m gonna get me some of that Tyrannosaurus sex”…

  4. Rebecca wrote:

    There’s the line “though continents divide” from “Wherever You May Be” off Bonnie Raitt’s 2002 album Silver Lining. It’s just the one line, but it was the first geologic reference I actively noticed in a song. Maybe not the best song for Valentine’s day, since it seems to be more about love lost (or at least separated).

  5. Cyrano Jones wrote:

    My first thought was Elvis in ‘Beyond Belief’, because I felt it was such a sly reference that it stuck in my head.
    I might make it California’s fault
    Be locked in Geneva’s deepest vault
    Just like the canals of Mars or the great barrier reef
    I come to you beyond belief

  6. Tuff Cookie wrote:

    My ultimate favorite (which was the theme of many undergrad field trips) is Hot Lava, by Perry Farrell & D.V.D.A. (from South Park, I believe). It actually contains these lyrics:

    Magma flowing into a subaqueous environment
    Produces pillow lava
    Hydrostatic pressure of seawater
    Tends to inhibit the vesicle size of the basalt!
    Ooh, baby, every time we kiss, hot lava…etc.

    Aside from the amusing raunchiness of the lyrics, this part is actually scientifically correct. Beautiful.

  7. Julian wrote:

    I think it gets even geekier.

    The reference to Iben Browning is what made it clearer to me – his prediction of the next New Madrid Big One in the early 1990s brought a ton of media people and scientists down to the area, just in case. (The media people believed it, the scientists not so much, but some felt kind of obligated to be there.) To me, the first stanza (“All my daydreams are disasters,” to “rivers burn and run backwards, to her, that’s enough.”) implies that the girl is excited by this kind of mayhem, and the fact that she came from New York City to New Madrid when Browning was spewing his prediction in turn implies that she’s either a media person focusing on natural disasters, or a seismologist. The singer is daydreaming of disasters because news of another one would bring her back to New Madrid.

    I’m also wondering if they know about the whole breaking-plate-Reelfoot-Rift-filled-in thing, since they came up with those lines about the “landfill” and “buries us all in its broken back.” But I may be reading too much into it there, at least.

  8. Maria Brumm wrote:

    Yeah, but none of that storyline is really about the fact that it’s an intraplate earthquake (unless you’re right about the landfill thing – and that seems like a stretch, but it’s not like I have a better interpretation).

  9. Julian wrote:

    True, true. The love story aspect doesn’t change based on whether the quake is interplate or intraplate. There’s a reason why they’re both in New Madrid, so I made the mental leap that intraplate is important. (I am probably still analyzing too much!)

    …and now I’m tempted to try and write a love song that’s specifically related to intraplate quakes, or maybe normal faulting. (Since you’ve listed some strike slip ones already, and a song about megathrusts could only do bad things…)

  10. Maria Brumm wrote:

    a song about megathrusts could only do bad things

    I dunno about that… do they teach bow-chicka-wow-wow composition in fancy art music programs?

  11. Julian wrote:

    Only avant-garde bow-chicka-wow-wow composition.

  12. kevin z wrote:

    Hi Maria, “I wanna Rock” – Twisted Sister? lol

    Anyways, I wanted to drop by to let you know, I regularly write geeky science folk songs (even to the style of uncle tupelo even, my like OMG teh fave band!).

    I think with my little undergrad (UC-Davis, Go Aggies!) geology training, I can muster up something. Maybe “Without You, Clay, I’m Feeling Porous Tonight”?

    If you want to write any song lyrics, I’m put it to music!

  13. Rebecca wrote:

    Can’t “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” be co-opted?
    I notice that, for “New Madrid” to scan, you’d have to pronounce it as though it were in Spain. I’ve never heard the song; maybe they don’t make it scan. We say it with the stress on the first syllable, though, in New Madrid territory.

  14. Maria Brumm wrote:

    They actually make it scan with the stress on the first syllable. It’s not a very rigorous rhyme scheme.

    Kevin, clay is actually very porous, it’s just not very permeable (holds lots of water, does not allow the water to go anywhere). Can you make the rhythm fit with “permeable”?

  15. Randy wrote:

    I always think of the Newark Supergroup and the breakup of Pangaea when I listen to the song “Transatlanticism” by Death Cab for Cutie:

    The Atlantic was born today and I’ll tell you how…
    The clouds above opened up and let it out.

    I was standing on the surface of a perforated sphere
    When the water filled every hole.
    And thousands upon thousands made an ocean,
    Making islands where no island should go.

    I know alot of paleontologists who think the song “Scar Tissue” by RHCP includes the line “the Burgess Shale is a lonely view” (tragically the actual line is “with these birds I share a lonely view”).

  16. SimonB wrote:

    This may be a little off-topic, but music and geology always makes me think of my favourite late-eighties band: Thin White Rope:

    Good question!

  17. Gail Houck wrote:

    From Warren Zevon’s Desperados Under The Eaves:

    And if California slides into the ocean
    Like the mystics and statistics say it will
    I predict this hotel will be standing
    Until I pay my bill

  18. Brandy wrote:

    Rocks and daggers by Noah and The Whale

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