60 of my favorite songs about L.A./California

Let me say first that this was a vexing, taxing enterprise -- not because there aren't enough songs about Southern California; God knows there are a gracious plenty, and L.A. may own the record. There just aren't, in my opinion, enough GREAT songs about Southern California, with the exception of some standout classics. I wanted a 100-song playlist; I'm settling for 60. 

Why? Many reasons, I suppose. Songwriters seem to move here and get jaded or downright pejorative about the subject matter, and I wasn't interested in much of that. (My time here has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.) In other cases, often I'd stumble across a song with a great title that's either out of print, or poorly recorded and almost unlistenable. Many, many more are just bad songs period -- rambling, incoherent, basically just lists of L.A. tourist spots. Not what I'm looking for. And it's always jarring to discover that a well-respected band just so happened to write an absolute clunker about the City of Angels.

But I also found the inverse was true; some artists that I might otherwise cringe to hear pop up on my radio dial have tended to write one or two epically terrific songs, specifically -- and maybe only -- about L.A.

I did bend my rule in a couple of cases against including the same artist twice. And a few of the songs below have no obvious tie to Los Angeles. For example, "All Kinds of Time" made the list because I moved out here to take my first job in sports journalism, and that song spoke to me.

The obvious classics are, well, obvious, and so they're mostly included. I don't feel like you can compile a list like this without including Tom Petty, The Beach Boys or The Mamas and the Papas. Purists may wonder where The Doors' "L.A. Woman" is below, or why I didn't include Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." The short answer is I don't care for The Doors and that, while I love the sentiment behind Newman's ode, I just find it a bit dated. 

And so without further ado, my favorite songs about Los Angeles.

SIDE ONE

--"Southern California," Wax 
--"Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings," Father John Misty 
--"Midnight City," M83 
--"The Only Place," Best Coast 
--"City of the Angels," Bill Withers 
--"Desperados Under the Eaves," Warren Zevon 
--"Went Looking for Warren Zevon's Los Angeles," Lucero 
--"Go West," Liz Phair 
--"All Kinds of Time," Fountains of Wayne 
--"Spectacular Views," Rilo Kiley 
--"I Left My Wallet in El Segundo," A Tribe Called Quest 
--"California Gurls," Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg 
--"Time Spent in Los Angeles," Dawes 
--"Surfin' U.S.A.," Beach Boys 
--"Electrolite," R.E.M. 
--"It Was a Good Day," Ice Cube 
--"Out on the Weekend," Neil Young 
--"The Ghosts of Beverly Drive," Death Cab for Cutie 
--"Sin City," The Flying Burrito Brothers 
--"Paradise City," Guns 'N Roses 
--"Walking in L.A.," Missing Persons 
--"Promised Land," Chuck Berry 
--"Los Angeles," The Bird and the Bee 
--"Tiny Dancer," Elton John 
--"This Is Why I Came to California," Leon Ware 
--"Ventura Highway," America 
--"Come to California," Matthew Sweet 
--"I'm Writing a Novel," Father John Misty 
--"California Love," Dr. Dre and 2Pac 
--"All the Gold in California," The Gatlin Brothers 

SIDE TWO

--"California," Joni Mitchell 
--"No Room in Frame," Death Cab for Cutie 
--"California Stars," Billy Bragg and Wilco 
--"Free Fallin'," Tom Petty 
--"L.A. Rain," The Mynabirds 
--"Mulholland Drive," Gaslight Anthem 
--"Southern California," Tammy Wynette and George Jones 
--"A Long December," Counting Crows 
--"St. Francis Dam Disaster," Frank Black and the Catholics 
--"Hollywood," The Runaways 
--"L.A.," Elliott Smith 
--"L.A. Freeway," Guy Clark 
--"Going Back to Cali," LL Cool J 
--"Route 66," Nat King Cole (but there are hundreds of versions, so take your pick)
--"Pulaski," Drive-By Truckers
--"Pico and Sepulveda," Felix Figueroa & His Orchestra 
--"California Dreamin'," The Mamas & the Papas 
--"La Cienega Just Smiled," Ryan Adams 
--"Sunset and Vine," Waylon Jennings 
--"California," Phantom Planet 
--"If Hollywood Don't Need You (Honey I Still Do)," Don Williams 
--"Santa Monica Sunshine," Sweet 
--"Malibu," Hole 
--"Another Nice Day in L.A.," Eddie Money 
--"Release the Stars," Rufus Wainwright 
--"Things Are Looking Good (Out in Hollywood)," Baker Knight 
--"Santa Monica Pier," Noel Harrison 
--"Dizz Knee Land," Dada 
--"L.A. (My Town)," Four Tops 
--"Let Me Back In (I Love L.A.)," Rilo Kiley

1 comment

  • ChillPop

    ChillPop CAE

    Suggestions: "LA International Airport," Susan Ray "Marina del Rey," George Strait "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," Dionne Warwick "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma," David Frizell/Shelly West

    Suggestions:
    "LA International Airport," Susan Ray
    "Marina del Rey," George Strait
    "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," Dionne Warwick
    "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma," David Frizell/Shelly West

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