SoCal Songbook

'Sunset People' by Donna Summer, 1979

June 29, 2008

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK / GEOFF BOUCHER

'Sunset People' by Donna Summer, 1979

FOR DONNA SUMMER, finding fame felt like a divine pursuit. "I was 8 and I had this epiphany, really. I was in church, the Grand AME Church back in Boston, and it was a, like, spiritual flash; I knew I would be famous. I was just this little ugly black girl from Boston, but I knew it."

'California Dreamin' ' by the Mamas and Papas

June 8, 2008

SoCAL SONGBOOK

'California Dreamin' ' by the Mamas and Papas

Michelle Phillips remembers 1963 as a year of bone-chill and profound homesickness.

Randy Newman's 'I Love L.A.' | 1983

May 11, 2008

SoCAL SONGBOOK

Randy Newman's 'I Love L.A.' | 1983

Randy Newman has made a career out of melodic skepticism and deadpan rhythm, but he sounded genuinely stunned the other day when he was told that this year is the 25th anniversary of "I Love L.A." "What is that? I don't believe it. I can't believe it. Can it really be a quarter of a century?"

Tom T. Hall's 'L.A. Blues' |  1971

March 23, 2008

SOCAL SONGBOOK / GEOFF BOUCHER

Tom T. Hall's 'L.A. Blues'

TOM T. HALL approached songwriting like a hitchhiker in no particular hurry to catch a ride. "I'd go out by the highway and watch the truckers and I'd just go in that direction," the Kentucky native said. "I'd end up in all of these small hangouts with big parking lots. Roadside cafes, beer joints, diners, truck stops, pool halls. I'd listen. I'd talk. Then I'd go back to the hotel and sit down with my guitar."

'Skies of L.A.' Celine Dion | 2008

February 24, 2008

SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Skies of L.A.' Celine Dion | 2008

"I've always wanted to do a song about L.A., and now I have one."

'Moving to L.A.' Art Brut | 2005

February 10, 2008

SOCAL SONGBOOK

Art Brut: 'Moving to L.A.' (2005)

EDDIE ARGOS was depressed. He was working long hours behind the bar at Hog's Head, a pub in the seaside town of Weymouth, England. The weather outside was gray and his tables were full of stodgy, disaffected tourists who had decided there was more warmth in a pint of ale than a day on the beach. Argos had just lost his girlfriend, and his finances that summer of 2000 were bleaker than the weather.

'Dry River' Dave Alvin | 1991

January 6, 2008

SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Dry River' Dave Alvin | 1991

Ask Dave Alvin where he lives and you get a long answer. "I've lived in L.A. proper since 1980 or 1981 now, but I still feel like a stranger in a way. And you know, I don't consider myself an L.A. songwriter. I'm a Downey guy."

'Lost in Hollywood' System of a Down | 2005

December 14, 2007

SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Lost in Hollywood' System of a Down | 2005

In the mid-1980s, Daron Malakian was a shy youngster living in an apartment near the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vine Street, and his parents spent much of their time trying to shield his eyes from the seedy parade of Hollywood's sidewalks.

'Coming Into Los Angeles'  Arlo Guthrie | 1968

December 2, 2007

SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Coming Into Los Angeles' Arlo Guthrie | 1968

IT was the most inspiring voyage of Arlo Guthrie's itinerant music career, but a lot of the details are a bit of a blur now, like so much of the late 1960s. "I was flying from London to L.A. I don't know what airline it was. It was around 1968 -- well, I know it was after 1965. It was between 1966 and 1968. I was like 18 or 19. I'm sorry. It was a long time ago." The one thing Guthrie absolutely remembers is the turbulence.

'Screenwriter's Blues' Soul Coughing | 1994

November 18, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Screenwriter's Blues' Soul Coughing | 1994

"Screenwriter's Blues"

'To Die in L.A.' West Indian Girl | 2007

November 4, 2007

SOCAL SONGBOOK

'To Die in L.A.' West Indian Girl | 2007

West Indian Girl "'To Die in L.A."

"Le Chateau" Nous Non Plus | 2005

October 21, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

"Le Chateau" Nous Non Plus | 2005

Where does inspiration come from? Sometimes, apparently, it's born at poolside.

'Grey in L.A.' Loudon Wainwright III  | 2007

September 30, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Grey in L.A.' Loudon Wainwright III | 2007

IN the early 1950s, a 7-year-old named Loudon Wainwright III came east to Los Angeles and had to practically shade his eyes from the glamour.

'California Girls' The Beach Boys | 1965

August 12, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'California Girls' The Beach Boys | 1965

It was late at night and Brian Wilson, who had just taken LSD for the first time, was in the bedroom of his Hollywood apartment with a pillow over his head. He was stricken. He had images of his mother and his father in his mind and, most of all, fear. Then he managed to push all those thoughts aside. He walked downstairs to the piano.

'26 Miles (Santa Catalina)' The Four Preps | 1957

July 15, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'26 Miles (Santa Catalina)' The Four Preps | 1957

ONE of the sunniest songs about Southern California began in frosty Chicago where a 10-year-old Cubs fan named Bruce Belland watched the movie reels about his team's spring practices on distant Santa Catalina Island. "I would sit there in the dark and stare at the players and those palm trees waving in the background and wonder 'How can it be that warm anywhere in the world when it is so cold here in Chicago?' "

'I'm From L.A.' Go Betty Go | 2005

July 8, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'I'm From L.A.' Go Betty Go | 2005

BY all appearances, Go Betty Go was on the verge of something big in early 2005 when the members went into a Silver Lake studio to record their debut album. They had a feisty brand of pop-punk and, as four young Latinas who effortlessly jumped from English to Spanish lyrics between their barre chords, the veterans of the Warped Tour seemed in tune with young urban audiences.

'L.A. Girl' The Adolescents | 1981

June 24, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'L.A. Girl' The Adolescents | 1981

TONY Brandenburg (better known to punk fans by the stage alias Tony Cadena), a baby-faced outsider with soulful eyes, walked through the corridors of Magnolia High School in Anaheim with the posture of a kid just waiting for the next punch. It was the late 1970s and the word had gotten around that Cadena fancied himself a singer. The razzing was merciless.

'MacArthur Park' Jimmy Webb | 1968

June 10, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'MacArthur Park' Jimmy Webb | 1968

BY late 1967, Jimmy Webb was a 21-year-old wunderkind of the L.A. songwriter scene with the hits "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" by Glen Campbell and "Up, Up and Away" by the Fifth Dimension. He was invited to lend a musical hand at a fundraiser in East L.A., and there he met Richard Harris, the incorrigible Irish actor, who prowled the room like a lion with twinkling eyes. Harris wanted to sing old pub songs, and Webb played the piano, so soon they were unlikely drinking mates. "He liked vodka," Webb recalled. "And I was out of my league. Way out of my league. He said to me, 'Let's make a record, Jimmy Webb.' He only called me 'Jimmy Webb,' never just 'Jimmy.' "

'Desperadoes Under the Eaves' Warren Zevon | 1976

June 3, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Desperadoes Under the Eaves' Warren Zevon | 1976

THE late Warren Zevon was a dark, sly troubadour, and he had a wonderful, world-weary laugh. Tell his son, Jordan Zevon, that he has the same laugh and he nods knowingly. "It's funny, my dad and I had this thing: He would laugh and I would say, 'Johnny Pops, that's an ugly laugh.' And he would answer, 'Well, Johnny Son, it's an ugly world.' "

'(More Bounce in) California' Soulkid #1 | 2005

May 20, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'(More Bounce in) California' Soulkid #1 | 2005

MARC GODFREY left Vancouver, Canada, for London looking for a bigger audience for his music, but the England adventure only left him broke and frustrated. A friend told him to try Los Angeles — the sun is always shining, after all — so, by 2000, the singer was living in the old Regency Apartments on Hollywood Boulevard. The place was drenched in celebrity history: Stars such as Stevie Wonder and Johnny Depp had lived there, and back when the Regency was still a hotel, Divine died under its roof.

'San Fernando Valley' Bing Crosby | 1944

May 6, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'San Fernando Valley' Bing Crosby | 1944

FEW pop-culture figures resonated with American troops in World War II the way Bing Crosby did. He was a tireless figure on USO tours in Europe and when his rich, dignified baritone gave them "White Christmas" or "I'll Be Home for Christmas," the weary soldiers heard the sound of the home front and the promise of peacetime. So in 1944, when Crosby hit No. 1 with a jaunty song called "San Fernando Valley," it was no surprise that GIs heard it as a call to build their postwar lives in a new Eden out west.

'Sin City' The Flying Burrito Brothers | 1969

April 22, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Sin City' The Flying Burrito Brothers | 1969

"This old town's filled with sin, it'll swallow you in…." Chris Hillman woke up with the words in his head one morning in early 1969 and, as he made his way to the kitchen of his rented house just off Ventura Boulevard, a few more lines came to him: "If you got some money to burn, take it home right away."

'Why You'd Want to Live Here' Death Cab for Cutie | 2001

April 8, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Why You'd Want to Live Here' Death Cab for Cutie | 2001

"AN anti-L.A. song? Well, I've never seen it that way." Ben Gibbard, the Seattle-based singer for Death Cab for Cutie, insists he isn't a Los Angeles basher. "This song is a conversation. It's a lover trying to convince his loved one not to move to L.A. He's saying anything he can think of. It could be anywhere she's going, it just happens to be L.A."

'Los Angeles Is Burning' Bad Religion | 2004

February 25, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Los Angeles Is Burning' Bad Religion | 2004

GROWING up in West Hills, Brett Gurewitz learned that Los Angeles was a more unruly beast than the far-off cities he read about in schoolbooks. "The telling thing about L.A. is the fact that it has a fire season. I'm a third-generation Angeleno, and proud of it, and if you grow up here you learn that fire is a cyclical thing. To me, it meant L.A. wasn't quite tamed. Other cities, like New York and Paris, are settled and established — they long ago became docile, tamed things. Not Los Angeles."

'A Second Chance' Rickie Lee Jones | 2003

February 11, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'A Second Chance' Rickie Lee Jones | 2003

RICKIE LEE JONES was living in a house facing a three-way intersection on Sunset Boulevard, and sometimes she'd sit on the lawn and watch the street life roll west like a sooty river looking for the sea.

'The Last Resort' The Eagles | 1976

January 28, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'The Last Resort' The Eagles | 1976

IT was a rainy winter's day in Denton, Texas, and a young man named Don Henley was in a scattered state of mind. He was engaged to marry a pretty girl from his hometown, but that meant giving up his dream of a musician's life. He was also fretting about the prospect of a draft notice that might take him from the prairie to the swamps of Vietnam. If he was looking for a sign, it came to him over the radio in his small apartment: It was "California Dreaming" by the Mamas & the Papas and, in its melancholy sunshine and crystal harmonies, he heard a call to go west.

'City of Angels' Ozomatli | 2007

January 14, 2007

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'City of Angels' Ozomatli | 2007

MORE than any other place in America, Los Angeles is willful in its disregard for the uninformed tourist. Every day, the city snubs and evades the first-time visitors who attempt to find their way without a local guide at the wheel. After too many wrong turns, the newcomer departs town in a huff, a rube weary of the civic shell game.

'Hollywood' Los Lonely Boys | 2004

December 31, 2006

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Hollywood' Los Lonely Boys | 2004

AS soon as Henry Garza was old enough to perch an acoustic guitar on his leg, he was strumming and singing songs of old Mexico and new Texas. His father was Enrique Garza, who for years played roadhouses, fairgrounds and theaters in a conjunto band called the Falcones. All three of his sons joined him on stage, and Henry might have been the best songwriter in the family. On a dusty Austin afternoon a few years ago, he and his father were sitting in a van they used for touring; the elder Garza began to feel his way around the chords and concept of a new song. He called it "Nashville," but young Henry had a different notion and persuaded his father to change the compass point.

'Dtla' Gary Jules | 2002

November 19, 2006

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Dtla' Gary Jules | 2002

The title is shorthand for downtown Los Angeles and, in this evocative song, it's a district defined by high friends in low places. "For a specific demographic of people in the mid-1990s, the purpose of going to downtown L.A. was for less than legal purposes," explained Jules, a singer-songwriter who lived in Hollywood in that decade but was fascinated by downtown's high-rise affluence and street-level churn of recently arrived immigrants, blue-collar shifts, barflies and junkies.

'Letter to L.A.' Joe Ely | 1987

November 5, 2006

SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Letter to L.A.' Joe Ely | 1987

TEXAS troubadour Joe Ely grew up staring west to where the train tracks met the horizon, and distant cities promised a life less dusty and flat. As a young man, in 1967, he hopped a freight train in New Mexico that, three days later, brought him to San Bernardino.

'Van Nuys (es Very Nice)' Los Abandoned | 2004

October 29, 2006

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Van Nuys (es Very Nice)' Los Abandoned | 2004

'Hooray for Hollywood' Mercer & Whiting | 1937

October 22, 2006

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Hooray for Hollywood' Mercer & Whiting | 1937

'Ventura Highway' America | 1972

October 1, 2006

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Ventura Highway' America | 1972

'Lausd' Jurassic 5 | 2000

August 27, 2006

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Lausd' Jurassic 5 | 2000

'Santa Monica' Everclear | 1995

August 13, 2006

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Santa Monica' Everclear | 1995

'Hollywood' World Party | 1993

July 30, 2006

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Hollywood' World Party | 1993

'Los Angeles' Frank Black | 1993

July 16, 2006

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Los Angeles' Frank Black | 1993

'Pacific Coast Highway' Burt Bacharach | 1969

July 2, 2006

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Pacific Coast Highway' Burt Bacharach | 1969

'Celluloid Heroes' The Kinks | 1972

June 18, 2006

THE SOCAL SONGBOOK

'Celluloid Heroes' The Kinks | 1972

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