It tickles my fancy somewhat, as it brings together two loves: maps and music. I was aware of the PopSpots site chronicling pop-culture locations in New York City (mostly), but it has always been presented as much more of a solid research, go-and-look-and-take-a-photo-of-the-place sort of endeavour. There’s also this piece, showing (amongst other things), how the site of the first Black Sabbath cover shoot looks today.
I suppose that it’s the ability to see something that we think is somehow mystical or not-quite-real – the album cover – in something as commonplace as a Google window. There’s certainly an interest in where these magical cover events take place – just check out this page about how to find where David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album cover was shot (now the holder of one of those blue historical importance plaques) for an example. I suppose that now there’s an extra level to this nosey-parker stuff: with Street View we can see how things appear now. Or, if not now, then within spitting distance.
We take the Google Maps service for granted – it’s the go-to method for plotting routes or locating places I’ve no idea about – but it’s something I’d never have believed could exist, had I been told about it when I was a young boy. I spent a lot of time collecting old touring maps of parts of the world, purely for the vicarious thrill of tracing roads with my finger, thinking that someday I’d drive along them, or would be there.
(Related: the New York Public Library has made its collection of antique maps available under a Creative Commons licence. Read about it here and then obtain out a bunch of maps, just like the one at the top of the post, if only because they provide a feeling of strange enjoyment.)
When I’m feeling something akin to homesickness – nostalgia? – for London I sometimes look for places where I used to live, or spent a lot of time. Armchair tourism, I suppose. Here, for example, is where I lived, years ago, with then-flatmate Meg. It was, if I don’t count the family friend whose place I crashed for a couple of weeks, my first proper London digs and the first time I’d ever lived out of home.
Opposite a council estate (which now appears to be in the process of fixing-upness) it was completely different to any place I’d lived. London. The place I’d wanted to be for so long, so different than I’d thought. The cause of much happiness and a lot of shit. A dirty bastard town to which I want to return because it’s now been so long since I was there – two years shy of fifteen years? – that it all seems so unlike me, now.
With a couple of clicks, I can walk the streets I used to spend so much time on – here’s my old office, here’s one of my old locals, here’s where I discovered so many great records, here’s where I left. But the pictures it’s stitched from are all new, so the feelings evoked seem more strange: it’s how I remember it, but not.
But what is?