We spent some time in LA recently and I decided to put together a playlist of songs that are from Los Angeles, about it, or that just seem to belong there to me somehow.
New York residents create triumphant jubilant songs about their hometown, while people who hail from London also sing about their city like they might just think it is the greatest place on the planet. Denizens of Los Angeles also love to write about their city, but they tend to paint a much darker and more subversive picture of it.
There are a lot of songs about California that don’t really cover LA, yes it is California but it is also very much it’s own place. Then again there are also a lot of songs not written about LA that still somehow fit the place.
There are a massive number of notable omissions. I don’t know how many hundreds of songs namedrop the city in their titles alone, then there are N.W.A., Snoop, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns N’ Roses and The Beach Boys just to name a few of the most obvious.
Screenwriter’s Blues by Soul Coughing
Written by a New Yorker who had never actually visited LA, some how it still manages to capture the city so well, and seems like the perfect starting point for this little audio tour of LA.
Malibu by Hole
Not to be confused with the Miley Cyrus song of the same name, this one was co-written by Billy Corgan. Courtney Love apparently doesn’t like it much but this is one of my favourite Hole moments, which is actually a big thing because I think Hole are one of the most underrated groups ever.
Los Angeles, I’m Your’s by The Decemberists
Frequent readers will notice that the work of The Decemberist’s appears a lot in my mixtapes. One of the reasons for this the lyric writing brilliance of Colin Meloy who, no surprises, has done it again with this love/hate ode to a city by the sea.
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow by Dada
A tale, like so many others, of the pull of LA, calling out to the misfits, wannabees and dreamers. Hey, apparently we all have a dream and according to many this is the city where they can come true.
Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead
Not actually a song about Los Angeles at all, but apparently written by Thom Yorke in part inspired by Canary Wharf which is about 8800 km away. The sentiment does seem to fit remarkably well though.
The Only Place by Best Coast
This is a love song to a city written by a native. Bethany Costino overlooks all of the dodgy things about LA and sells us a vision that anyone in the world would love to and be lucky to live in.
Hollywood Freaks by Beck
Beck is a native Angelino, he’s also a scientologist and generally a pretty odd character. Apart from all of that he has produced some great songs, including this critique of the culture of excess in Hollywood.
Electrolite by R.E.M.
Another thoughtful and sober love song to the city, because anything that Colin or Beth can do, Michael Stipe can do to.
Redondo Beach by Patti Smith
Probably not the most cheerful song you’ll ever hear, with suicide as it’s subject, but no less beautiful for all of that.
Beverly Hills by Weezer
A track that seems to be just taking the piss out of the plasticity and excess of Hollywood but also is undeniably tinged with a touch of affection. Weezer are one of LA’s biggest musical exports after all, it must hold some speical place in their hearts.