Living Out a Trip to Los Angeles Through Its Songs

Los Angeles songs
Here’s my list of Los Angeles songs that popped into my head on my last visit to L.A.

Los Angeles songs, as experienced on my recent L.A. visit

“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 from Venice Beach 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.

“Hollywood,” Madonna
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 Los Angeles Songs

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, and “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. For the completist, there are literally hundreds more songs about Los Angeles.

And don’t forget to check out my playlist of great driving songs from road trips and traveling. Plus other articles about hiking in the Hollywood Hills, searching for celebrities in L.A., and how to visit Los Angeles without a vehicle.

Do you have a favorite Los Angeles / California song?

33 thoughts on “Living Out a Trip to Los Angeles Through Its Songs”

  1. Fab list, great to see Randy Newman topping it too! I would add Morrissey’s First of the Gang to Die, for its Los Angeles shout out opening and maybe San Franciscans American Music Club’s song I Broke my Promise, although not about LA – ‘The California sun always shines. Oh but San Fransisco is a cold, cold place to have a run of bad luck. Everyone likes to shine their little flashlights in your face.’

  2. Don’t forget “Dead Man’s Curve” by Jan and Dean, about Sunset Strip–I was cruisin’ in my Stingray late one night / When an XKE pulled up on the right / And rolled down the window of his shiny new Jag / And challenged me then …
    And The Beachboys “Good Vibrations” always reminds me of L.A.

    1. I’m not familiar with the Jan and Dean song, but it sounds appropriate. I’ll have to look it up. Good Vibrations could definitely be an L.A. song. Good choice!

  3. Can’t forget Phantom Planet’s “California Here We Come” or whatever it’s called!! That’s what I thought of when I first started reading this… But now Weezer is stuck in my head. 🙂


  4. Into the Great Wide Open- Tom Petty

    PS. Just discovered your site. Thanks for keeping me occupied on slow office days!

  5. donna sheridan

    I love listening to Sheryl Crow’s Music and this is cool!! you really hit it showing the world how amazing the Santa Monica/ the the good LA tunes.

  6. Hey Scott, I didn’t know Tori’s song was about LA!? But Malibu and All I Want to Do is so awesome to play on a summer day in LA. I miss LA!

    1. Yeah Tori mentions the Ventura & 101 highways, though the song doesn’t focus on LA itself. I agree Malibu is a fun song!

  7. I love Soul Coughing!

    Interesting that you would do this post. I was just on the stair master (I know) listening to Jane’s Addiction, which – next to Concrete Blonde – are in my mind quintessential LA). I think “Jane Says” seems so LA. Tragic, but very LA. I could be wrong

  8. Cool post. I would probably be humming some of the same tunes if I was in those place. Funny how we relate music to our travels. Love the Santa Monica experience above, and that is off of one of my all time fave albums. Cheers!

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