My recent visit to Los Angeles, as experienced through the lens of popular music
“I Love L.A.,” Randy Newman
I arrive at the airport and begin hearing Randy Newman’s classic song in my head. Arriving from frigid Chicago, I’m intoxicated by the sun, the palm trees, the overall atmosphere, as I hear Newman’s words, “Look at that mountain, look at those trees / Look at that bum over there, man / He’s down on his knees / Look at these women, there ain’t nothin’ like ‘em nowhere.”
“Santa Monica (Watch the World Die),” Everclear
My friend Jason and I drive towards Santa Monica to check out the pier and the beach. On the walk there, I see several interesting sights that make LA beaches fun. A dreadlocked, shirtless white hippie dude mills around. Another guy offers tourists the chance to pose with his three parrots (for a fee, of course). Two of the scariest-looking punk dudes you’d ever see lovingly hold hands. A girl with freakishly huge gauged ears confidently strolls past. Watching the waves, the surfers, the kids playing in the sand, I can’t stop humming the popular Everclear song with the chorus about living beside the ocean and swimming out past the breakers.
“Ocean Avenue,” Yellowcard
This song was written about the Ocean Avenue in Jacksonville, but that’s why music is great – listeners can interpret the songs however they want. As I cross Ocean Avenue to head to Santa Monica Beach, this song gets stuck in my head. And that’s a good thing, because the youthful energy of the song is the perfect soundtrack for the beach.
“All I Wanna Do,” Sheryl Crow
We leave the beach and proceed down Santa Monica towards my friend’s house. I can’t ever see a street sign for Santa Monica Blvd. without having Sheryl Crow immediately launch herself into my brain. And when she does, she simply won’t go away. But that’s ok – her ode to the crazy people of the city of angels is catchy and fun. And you have to sing along with, “Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard.”
“Screenwriter’s Blues,” Soul Coughing
This stream-of-consciousness song includes a number of quirky observations about LA. When I see a city bus roll past, I’m reminded of the lyric, “Los Angeles beckons the teenagers to come to her on buses… Los Angeles loves love!” Frontman Mike Doughty (with whom I once interned) is an incredibly talented wordsmith. The song also touches on LA radio stations, aspiring screenwriters and the big movie studios.
“Beverly Hills,” Weezer
As we continue to drive toward my host’s house, we pass through Beverly Hills, and I begin singing in my head, “Beverly Hills… that’s where I want to be!” Weezer’s always been one of my favorite bands, and “Beverly Hills” was one of their best songs. Since I spend a lot of time walking through the neighborhood on largely-unsuccessful celebrity-hunting expeditions, this song spends a lot of time in my brain whenever I visit LA. The music video was even shot at the Playboy Mansion with Hef’s approval.
We finally arrive at my host’s apartment in glitzy Hollywood. There are a million songs about Hollywood, but the Madonna track is the one that sticks in my head, probably because it came out not long before I made my first visit to the city. It’s from her criminally underappreciated album American Life. Madonna sings that “Everybody comes to Hollywood,” and that sounds about right to me.
Other Songs About Los Angeles
That’s the great thing about LA – there’s seemingly a song for every sight. The tunes above were just the ones that popped into my music-obsessed mind during a single day driving throughout the city, but there are numerous other Los Angeles songs.
A sampling of my favorites: “Malibu” by Hole, “In-N-Out (Animal Style)” by We the Kings, “A Sorta Fairytale” by Tori Amos, “California Love” by Dr. Dre & 2Pac, “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers and “Screenwriter’s Blues” by Soul Coughing.
For the completist, there are literally hundreds more songs about Los Angeles.
Do you have a favorite Los Angeles / California song?