*Image taken from the internet, likely subject to copyright
As I a child I don’t recall a deep desire to travel. I always hear people say, with moist eyes staring off into the horizon, “I always wanted to travel.” How did they know that as children? My mother was never a big fan of travel. Despite that, she’s been quite the trooper in her golden years, following my father around the globe on cruises. Most of our trips were to see our grandparents, who lived a two hour car ride from here. I can remember driving back on Sunday nights, my mom would always make us stop at the store to buy “fresh milk.” I’m not sure how the milk all went bad in just forty-eight hours, but it made me suspicious about dairy for a long time. As a kid I seem to recall driving down to southern Missouri (hillbilly country) to go to the Silver Dollar City amusement park every summer. That’s just what you did back in the day – you loaded your spouse and your 2.5 kids into the car and drove somewhere. In the midwest, there aren’t a ton of vacation spots. “Welcome to Silver Dollar City.”
It’s not that my parents didn’t travel at all. I know my parents took trips together. I’ve been hearing about a certain journey to Puerto Vallarta my whole life. I do remember, when I was in grade school, my first ever airplane flight, my parents took us out to Los Angeles to go to Disneyland. My dad’s aunt Gemma lived out there and I remember she had an orange tree in her back yard and I thought that was pretty fucking awesome. Her husband had a nudie calendar hung in the garage. Fresh oranges and topless women…needless to say, I spent a lot of time on that visit outside…enjoying the sunshine. That’s always sort of summed up L.A. for me… fresh fruit and chicks.
Despite that wonderful introduction, Disneyland was cool to a 4th grader, I’ve never really been back there. And indeed, despite never having a burning desire to travel as a kid, I love to travel now. It’s one of my favorite things to do. In fact, I chose the career of the Traveling Salesman if I’m being honest (Thoughts From The Traveling Salesman And A B&V Playlist: Hanging On The Telephone). I’ve been a ton of places…granted I’m not Johnny Cash who sang, “I’ve Been Everywhere.” I can’t make that claim, but I’ve been all over, just never really in Los Angeles. I’ve been to Costa Mesa for work, but does that count? I’ve braved the horror of John Wayne Airport’s security line. I did fly out of LAX once… it was like being transported to the 70s and into an episode of ‘The Rockford Files.’ It was in midsummer and the air-conditioning was off. It was like being in a third world airport… I think there was a woman trying to board the plane with a live chicken or some other livestock.
It’s odd that I’ve never spent time in L.A. It has quite a bit of import for my family. My dad’s aunt and uncle (and probably numerous cousins) live out there. In the Great Depression my grandparents were part of that wave of “Okies” who migrated to California for work (although let me state for the record they were from Kansas, not Oklahoma). My grandfather got a job at a plant and really started his family there. My father and my uncle were born there. If my grandparents hadn’t moved back to Kansas when the war was over, I’d probably have ended up growing up out there and despite having no musical talent I just know I would have ended up in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was offered a job out there right out of college… what might have been?
As a music lover, it’s astounding I’ve never been out there. I’ve never seen Hollywood. I’ve never been to the Sunset strip where hair metal was born. There’s so much great music to come out of that town. From classic rock like the Doors or the Byrds to seminal punk bands like X to the entire hair-metal thing with Motley Crue. This was the birthplace of Van Halen for fuck’s sake. I’m not forgetting all the great country music that came out of Bakersfield, which was just down the road. Orange County was the home of No Doubt and Social Distortion. If I’d taken that job out of college god knows how much more music I’d own today.
While I was in New York, I started to think about the recent playlist I did for that city, B&V Playlist: Songs For New York City. It’s usually a slow time for music after the holidays so I was quietly strolling around the city putting playlists together in my head… I would never want to get accused of a Tupac/Biggie kind of feud so I began to think about songs for Los Angeles. I have no idea why… travel to New York, think about L.A., that’s about right for me. I was just amazed at how compact New York was…I hadn’t been there in a while. I couldn’t help but contrast it with how spread out LA is. I mean, it’s true, “Nobody walks in L.A.” I think of cars racing by on the freeway, big 8-lane highways. There’s also the allure of Hollywood and the movie star making machinery. While I did see DJ Khalid outside the Hermes store in New York, one has to wonder how many stars I’d see in LA.
So, as is my habit, I put together the following playlist of songs about L.A. I extend it to some of the more famous neighborhoods and areas… Hollywood, Laguna, Bel Air etc. I didn’t discriminate. I’m not sure it’s not a complete list, but it contains some of my favorites. Hopefully you’ll hear something you haven’t before. We’re all about turning you onto new music here at B&V. And, while there are certain songs I know are about L.A., they don’t contain any reference to the city so I omitted them: “Welcome to the Jungle” is Axl’s harrowing view of arriving in Los Angeles, or Tom Petty’s “California” is great, but it doesn’t mention the city. As always this playlist is on Spotify under the same title as the post. My thoughts below.
- The Doors, “L.A. Woman” – One of my early favorite songs about the city of the angels.
- Motley Crue, “Saints of Los Angeles” – Oh, to have been on the strip during the Crue’s heyday.
- Eagles, “King of Hollywood” – This could be the Harvey Weinstein theme song.
- James Taylor, “Honey Don’t Leave L.A.” – Oddly this was the first track I thought of when forming this thing.
- Eddie Money, “Another Nice Day In L.A.” – Just a great, great track by the Money-man, RIP.
- Bob Seger, “Hollywood Nights” – Epic, epic song with fabulous drumming. Seger took a tape of this song and put it in his car when driving home from the studio the night they recorded it… he said he looked down and he was going 90. Indeed.
- The Kinks, “Celluloid Heroes” – A song about movie stars.
- Pete Townshend, “Exquisitely Bored” – Only Townshend could take his trip to rehab in L.A. and turn it into a song… “there are good times walking in Laguna, but it rains my heart.” So true, Pete, so true.
- The Runaways, “Hollywood” – Joan Jett, Lita Ford, the Runaways should have been huge!
- Social Distortion, “Highway 101” – This is my favorite song by Social D. “I believe in love again…with all of its joys and pain.” And I think the 101 goes through L.A.
- “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” – Early Stones taking the piss out of an L.A. hipster who works for the record company.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Out In L.A.” – A little blast from the debut album.
- Neil Young, “L.A.” – “L.A., city in the smog.”
- Steely Dan, “Bad Sneakers” – A song about a New Yorker in L.A., home sick for the “frozen rain.”
- Lindsey Buckingham, “Bel Air Rain” – A beautiful, cascading acoustic guitar fuels this track.
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Century City” – Another great Petty deep track.
- X, “Los Angeles” – Title track from their seminal debut produced by the Doors’ Ray Manzarek.
- Warren Zevon, “Carmelita” – One of the greatest songs about Los Angeles ever written.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Californication” – You can’t do an L.A. list without a bunch of RHCPs. “Hollywood sells Californication.”
- Tom Petty, “Peace In L.A.” – Great track recorded to calm people down after the Rodney King riots. Hard to find, Spotify didn’t have it…
- Randy Newman, “I Love L.A.” – A big cheesy anthem.
- Eagles, “Hollywood Waltz” – Could the Eagles have been more disillusioned with Hollywood?
- Lyle Lovett, “L.A. County” – A song of violence and love gone wrong.
- Ozzy Osbourne, “Old L.A. Tonight” – This song should be to L.A. what Sinatra’s “New York, New York” is to the that town. Ozzy sings his ass off.
- Grateful Dead, “West L.A. Fadeway” – A funky little favorite of mine.
- Mudcrutch, “Topanga Cowgirl” – I loved both the Mudcrutch LPs that Petty and the gang did.
- Steely Dan, “Glamour Profession” – More complaints about the “L.A. concession.”
- Hole, “Pacific Coast Highway” – From the overlooked Nobody’s Daughter.
- Missing Persons, “Walking In L.A.” – I had a roommate in college who loved this album… I guess it rubbed off.
- Journey, “City of the Angels” – At their Steve Perry-led majestic best.
- Paul McCartney, “Mamunia” – I couldn’t tell you what the title means to save my life… there’s a lot about the “L.A. rain” in this song.
- Motley Crue, “Down At the Whisky” – I’ve never been the Whisky and I think it’s criminal.
- Warren Zevon, “Desperados Under the Eaves” – Another great track from his self titled LP. The reference to the Hollywood Hawiian Hotel is priceless.
- 311, “Champagne” – From the “dark side of Hollywood.”
- Wang Chung, “To Live And Die In L.A.” – From the movie of the same name. Their best track,
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Into the Great Wide Open” – Classic show business track.
- Hole, “Malibu” – Another great Hole track.
- Bush, “Everything Zen” – With lines my brother could have written about me had I lived in L.A…. “I’ll go find my asshole brother in Los Angeles.”
- Warren Zevon, “Meet Me In L.A.” – Yes, yes, I’m pounding the Zevon. He needs to been the Rock Hall of Fame.
- Tom Waits, “A Sweet Little Bullet From A Pretty Little Blue Gun” – The seedier side of Hollywood and Vine.
- Billy Joel, “Los Angelenos” – I prefer the live version.
- Tom Petty, “Free Fallin'” – Quintessential L.A. track.
- Starcrawler, “I Love L.A.” – Love this band.
- Billy Gibbons, “Hollywood 151” – Dirty blues rock.
- Billy Joel, “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” – Almost our fitting ending here…
- Don Henley, “Sunset Grill” – The epic synth ending was arranged by Randy Newman… A good way to end things, down on Sunset Blvd.
Enjoy!! If you have adds, please put them in the comments and I’ll add them out on Spotify. Happy New Year everybody!
4 thoughts on “B&V Playlist: Songs About Los Angeles, California”
Thank you for not including songs w just ‘L.A.’ or ‘Los Angeles’ in the title. I see these lists of ‘great driving songs’ which only have titles with ‘road’ or ‘driving’ or some such traffic word in the titles but are crummy driving songs. You certainly did your due diligence. BTW, L.A. Woman is the best ‘L.A.’ song. Ever.
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Thank you for reading and your comment. I’m with you I hate a playlist that only includes the key word in the title. The fun is doing the due diligence which is basically wracking my brain and listening to a bunch of songs. Thank you for noticing the work! I’m with you “LA Woman” is the Alpha and Omega of LA tunes. Cheers!
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Motel, money, murder, madness
Change the mood from glad to sadness
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