Editor’s note: When Palisadian Alan Eisenstock is not researching and writing one of his nonfiction books (18 thus far!), he pursues what he calls “a crazy labor of love side project” that he started in mid-March: sending a weekly Covid-themed playlist of songs to his family and friends. These playlists (which can be downloaded on Spotify CLICK HERE. ) span rock ‘n’ roll and pop music from the 1950s to 2020, and Eisenstock adds one or two lines of commentary about each song that is clever, amusing and informative.)
Fun fact. Of all 50 states, when it comes to the rollout and distribution of the Covid vaccine, California ranks dead last. And L.A. County, where I live, wins the title as worst county in the worst state. We might as well call ourselves locked down in L.A. What to do? Idea! Here are 16 “Los Angeles” songs. Listen up!
- “I Love L.A.” Randy Newman. Of course, we start with this, Randy’s informal 1983 Los Angeles anthem. “Century Boulevard… Santa Monica Boulevard…Sixth Street… ” Why pick Sixth Street? Anyway, Randy went for a Beach Boys-ish sound with Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac singing backup. We love it!
- “Good Vibrations” The Beach Boys. 1966 Grammy-award winner. Brian Wilson wrote this exquisitely sophisticated song incorporating several different melody changes. “She’s giving me excitations.” Is “she” a woman or Los Angeles itself? Think about it.
- “Free Fallin'” Tom Petty. Co-written with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra and the opening track from Tom’s 1989 album, Full Moon Fever. Tom said he got the idea for the song while driving through the San Fernando Valley, thus the mentions of “Mulholland,” “Reseda,” “Ventura Boulevard.” My question: why would anyone go to the Valley?
- “All I Wanna Do” Sheryl Crow. Rock, soul, folk, jazz… Sheryl can sing it. This is her best-selling single, off her first album, Tuesday Night Music Club, released in 1993. Our second mention of Santa Monica Boulevard, a street I avoid at all costs.
- “Desperados Under the Eaves” Warren Zevon. Welcome back to the playlist, Warren. This song describes Warren on one of his typical and terrible benders, wasted on salty margaritas. The man could drink. L.A. street mentioned: Gower Avenue. LOVE this song.
- “You’re No Good” Linda Ronstadt. Linda crushes this 1963 R&B classic first performed by Dee Dee Warwick. The lyrics “You’re no good” come up about a million times. This song has nothing at all to do with Los Angeles except for Linda. She is L.A. to me. I had lunch with her at Lucy’s El Adobe.
- “It Never Rains in Southern California” Albert Hammond. Albert, a Brit, wrote this with Mike Hazlewood in 1972. The average L.A. rainfall is 14 inches per year. In 1972, L.A. received 26 inches. Clearly, Hammond was in Britain or doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Plus, it’s raining right now.
- “Hollywood Nights” Bob Seger. The quintessential Detroit rocker, Seger wrote this in 1978 while driving through the Hollywood Hills. Kind of a boring song, but you gotta have it.
- “L.A. Freeway” Steve Earle. GREAT song written in 1970 by the legendary Guy Clark from Earle’s album Guy. L.A. street mention: L.A. Freeway. I notice there are a lot of L.A. songs about driving and going nowhere.
- “Tiny Dancer” Elton John. 1971 Elton and Bernie Taupin collaboration. Great song that Bernie admitted was about his wife, the lovely Maxine Feibelman, who was “a seamstress for the band and L.A. lady.” Shortly after Bernie’s declaration of love, Maxine dumped him.
- “Los Angeles, I’m Yours” The Decemberists. Indie rock band from Portland, OR, led by lead singer and chief songwriter Colin Meloy. This is a kind of a love song about L.A.’s underbelly. When they played this in person, in L.A., the crowd went crazy. I was there.
- “Los Angeles” HAIM L.A. sisters and huge fans of delis, especially Canter’s. They sing this love letter to Los Angeles, from their tremendous 2020 album, Women in Music Pt.III. P.S. There is no Part I or II.
- “Hotel California” Eagles. Great song from the 1977 album of the same name, written by the trio of Henley, Frey, and Felder. According to my research, the Eagles have performed this song 1,038 times live–and I was there every time.
- “The Neighborhood” Los Lobos. Here’s my favorite L.A. band with the title song from the 1990 The Neighborhood album. Coming from East L.A,. you’ve got five Latinx and a Jew making killer sounds. LOVE them.
- “The Pretender” Jackson Browne. Essential L.A. artist although he was born in Germany. Another title song from the album of the same name, this one with David Crosby and Graham Nash singing backup. “I’m going to rent myself a house in the shade of the freeway.”
- “Celluloid Heroes” The Kinks. British brothers Ray and Dave Davies lead this influential and popular rock band, this song from 1977. Lot of dead movie stars are mentioned as well as Hollywood Boulevard. This week alone we lost Cicely Tyson, Cloris Leachman, Larry King and eight million dollars in GameStop.
I know. I left out many, many L.A. songs. Please email me your suggestions and the songs you think I snubbed. Have at it!
In the meantime, Don’t Forget to Disinfect and… PLAY IT LOUD!
The link again: CLICK HERE.
I did have lunch with Linda Rondstadt at Lucy’s El Adobe. Well, okay, we didn’t have lunch together. We didn’t share a table. We weren’t actually in the same room. I saw her on my way out, sitting with Jerry Brown and the owner. But we were in the same restaurant… at lunchtime.
The Eagles have performed “Hotel California” 1,038 times. I saw none of them. I’ve never seen them live.
LAST WEEK’S POLL QUESTION:
Better Second Spouse: Doug or Mother. Mother won! Kidding.
THIS WEEK’S POLL QUESTION:
Best L.A. band–The Beach Boys or the Eagles? Who you got?
Thanks for listening. Or reading. Until next week,