Saturday, March 13, 2010

Five Great Songs about Los Angeles

The past few days have been busier than I anticipated, and I still haven't made the time-zone adjustment. Not only am I confused about the time, I haven't gotten the day or the date right in the last three days. I wonder how astronauts deal with this.

But it's bright and sunny in southern California, and Los Angeles is still the place everyone wants to be. Don't believe me? My iTunes library says so. Here are five of my favorite songs celebrating Los Angeles. Leave your own favorites in comments section.

1. "Come a Long Way," Michelle Shocked. This cassette (Arkansas Traveler) never left my car when I lived here. "I've come a long way, I've come a long away/I've come 500 miles today/I've come a long way, I've come a long way/And never even left LA." In Maine, if I drive two and a half hours, I'm in Boston, or at the Canadian border. In Los Angeles, I might have gone from Echo Park to Venice.

2. "LA County," Lyle Lovett. When I lived here, I used to say moving to Los Angeles was the American equivalent of the French Foreign Legion. It's what people do when their hearts are permanently broken, when they've run out of options and can't think what happens next, but are not yet ready to give up all hopes and dreams: I don't have to settle for this life. I could move to Los Angeles. Not everyone comes here for the right reasons, though.

3. "Going to California," Led Zeppelin. Americans aren't the only ones in love with the dream of California. "Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams/Telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems." It is, of course, but at least it's sunny here.

4. "California Dreaming," The Mamas and the Papas. Someone I was talking to recently said they'd never be able to listen to The Mamas and the Papas again, given the revelations about John Phillips' depravity. People who do terrible things are capable of making great art, and vice versa, and I always heard something sinister in this song anyway.

6. "LA Woman," The Doors. Los Angeles creates American culture; what we think of as The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties all started here. People quote that William Blake line "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" with no understanding of its context. It's a "Proverb of Hell" from Blake's masterwork "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," and part of a dialectic of sin and redemption that's supposed to bring us closer to God . . . but I digress. For me, everything good and bad about Los Angeles, the '60s, and people who misinterpret William Blake is packed into this song.


Anonymous said...

"Hollywood Hills," Beat Farmers (

"Hollywood Nights," Bob Seeger (

"Hooray for Hollywood," by THIS GUY! (

-- Ed

Sue Lin said...

Randy Newman's "I Love LA." And the soundtrack to William Friedkin's "To Live and Die in LA."

Richard said...

I think you mean drive two and a half hours

My fave is
"Walking in L A" Missing Persons

Claire said...

Los Angeles, I'm Yours: (I think that is a shortened version)

sarirose said...

I left my heart in Coronado many years ago. A simple time of my life walking down Orange Ave with a twin stroller and a single one or the same on a ferry ride to San Diego to walk down those streets.

AnswerGirl said...

You're right, Richard -- I'm fixing it now!

Anonymous said...

"Under the Bridge" and "Californication" by the Chili Peppers.

"Que Onda Quero" by Beck

and "All I want to do" by Sheryl Crowe

all make me homesick for LA at certain places and times.


Cynthia said...

A great LA sound is Los Angeles by Frank Black from his first solo after leaving The Pixies.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of L.A., have you heard Gabriel Kahane? He has an LP called 'The Ambassador,' which features L.A. inspired tracks.

Gotta love those artists who love a city.