Monday, August 8, 2011

MY HOMEMEGALOPOLIS: LOS ANGELES AND ME - Part 5 Of 6

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L.A. IS MY LADY, AND MY LADY IS A SONG

This segment of our Los Angeles tour is comprised entirely of L.A.-related music videos. Let’s enjoy a short musical interlude, shall we? We’ll get back to more photos and exciting stuffs in the 6th and final installment. But for now . . .

ROCK ON! . . .

A list of songs primarily about or that merely reference Los Angeles would be huge and it would include Oldies, like "Palisades Park" and “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” to several Steely Dan numbers from the Classic Rock era, to Rap/Hip-Hop and beyond.

Some of the more well known songs pertaining to L.A. and the state that the city was founded in are Sheryl Crow's  "All I Wanna Do", Led Zeppelin's "Going To California", "Walking In L.A." by Missing Persons, and "Welcome To The Jungle" by Guns N' Roses. And then there's the little known "L.A. Blues" by Iggy and The Stooges, which pretty much makes Guns N' Roses sound like Barry Manilow.

But I like none of those five songs!

However there are some songs mentioning my homemegalopolis that I dig a great deal. To begin with, I have said for decades the song that probably ought to be declared "The Official Song Of Los Angeles" (with Olvera Street in mind) is the one found playing in the video below:



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O5Q9tYJaHs

Of course, a lot of other native Angelenos would argue with me that Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." should be named the official song of the city.

I don't think I ever owned Randy's "Trouble In Paradise" album, but my great friend Pooh did. We used to sit in his second floor pad and drink along to his copy of it. My favorite song was "I'm Different", but I did enjoy "I Love L.A." also.

In compiling the stuffs to put this tour together, I found the video for "I Love L.A." at YouTube, and I watched it for the first time in about 27 years. I was thrilled to be reminded of two locations which I'd long forgotten had appeared in that video:

Remember the old "Jesus Saves" sign in Downtown which I told you in Part 1 had meant so much to me long ago? Well, it makes an appearance in Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." And there's also a quick shot of the "Tom's #5" sign.

Tom's #5 was a 24-hour burger joint located on Pico Boulevard, one block from Santa Monica Beach; you could tell how well the surf was breaking from the corner where Tom's #5 stood. Many's a night, after the bars were closed, me 'n' the boys would head to Tom's to get a big order of their greasy chili fries. Hey, man, when it's 3 AM and you're falling-down liquored-up, even Tom's #5 chili fries tasted like filet mignon!

I almost squealed with delight when I saw the Tom's #5 sign in Randy Newman's video - a video that I now appreciate far more than I ever did when it was getting played every 30 minutes on MTV in 1984. In fact, with my 20/20 hindsight, I'd have to say that Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." video is one of the top two or three music videos ever produced. Talk about images that capture the spirit of a song, this is it!

What's not to love? Disneyland, Venice Beach, a convertible on the open highway, and a "big, nasty redhead" at your side. Hokey-Smoke and Hoo-Wee! Sign me up! . . .



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBOQiMxwk1o

One thing I find rather amusing about the "I Love L.A." video is the streets that Randy Newman chose to name off: Century Boulevard, Victory Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard, Imperial Highway, and Sixth Street.

Are you kidding me? If someone asked me to name some of the most notable roads in the L.A. area, only Santa Monica Boulevard from Randy’s list would have had a shot of making my list.

Sheesh! Where was Wilshire Boulevard? Sunset Boulevard? Venice Boulevard? Pacific Coast Highway? La Brea? Heck, even Lincoln Boulevard, Mulholland Drive, and Pico would have made my list before Sixth Street!

Nevertheless, it’s a fabulous video, and I’m thinking that Newman’s street choices may have been his way of winking at those of us who really knew better.

By the way, while I was surfing YouTube, I happened upon a homemade video for Randy Newman’s song “I Love L.A.” which I also enjoyed. It was created by a girl calling herself raffistewardx3, and I thought she did an admirable job, especially considering that she had never even been to L.A. I made several attempts to post her video here, but for whatever reason, the system Just Said, "No”. Regardless, here is a link to raffistewartx3’s video, which is worth a look:
I LOVE L.A!! =D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nt2JxseNxZ8&NR=1

There have been more than a few songs to reference L.A. that I've liked, but two of my favorites are relatively unknown. First there is Brian Setzer’s retro-sounding, film noir-like original “Hollywood Nocturne” from his ‘The Dirty Boogie’ album. Musicians are always called in to write musical scores for movie screenplays, but in this case, the music almost demands that someone hire a writer to compose a screenplay for it:



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HfU77rYmJ8

Another little known song I like is “California” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. How this song failed to chart in Billboard’s Top 40 in the late ‘70s I’ll never understand:
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjMf2bFG7YU&fmt=18


WHERE’S WALDO WARREN?

The very next time someone approaches you and says, "I'll bet you ten bucks that Warren Zevon never sang his song 'Frank And Jesse James' at the Griffith Observatory", you'd be a fool not to take that bet. Here's all the evidence you'll need to win the wager:



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAuY8rEtugw&NR=1

If he had never written another tune, I'd still be declaring Tom Waits a genius songwriter! In his almost impossibly clever song "Emotional Weather Report" (I don't explain if you don't understand), he sings of "gusty winds at times around the corner of Sunset and Alvarado".

Also appearing on his live album, 'Nighthawks At The Diner", is the song "Better Off Without A Wife". In the spoken introduction to that song, Waits says: "I've always kind of been partial to calling myself up on the phone and asking myself out. ... Well, one thing about it, you're always around. Yeah, you ask yourself out, you know, some class joint somewhere - the Burrito King or something. ... Well, I ain't cheap, ya know!"

Here's the connection: On the Northwest corner of Sunset and Alvarado is The Burrito King, one in a chain of cheap fast-food Mexican joints in the L.A. area. (Incidentally, no matter where you are in Los Angeles, you're never more than a few blocks from someplace where I've had a drink - even when you dine fine at the Burrito King on Sunset and Alvarado.)

But it seems Tom Waits was not the only Rock star who appreciated the Burrito King "where the dogs of society howl". In this rare video below from 1977, Warren Zevon, another L.A. songwriter with a cult following, took a film crew from Amsterdam on a tour of Los Angeles, introducing them to The Burrito King.

When Zevon tells them the Burrito King serves "some of the finest Mexican-American food in Southern California", I assure you he is being facetious (not that there's anything wrong with the Burrito King - all of my 'first and last' dates started there!)



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6yVA5PHLn8&feature=player_embedded

[If you've been playing these videos that I've so generously provided you with, then perhaps you noticed that the Burrito King sign also managed to sneak its way into Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." music video as well.]

In this clip below, from the same televised special, Warren Zevon points out Malibu and Hollywood from the Griffith Observatory; Linda Ronstadt bitches 'n' moans in Malibu; and Bonnie Raitt extols the threads at 'Frederick's Of Hollywood':



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbhxK21qjrA&NR=1

OK, we'll wrap it all up with some interesting stuffs in the 6th and final installment.

Transport yourself to Part 6 by clicking here: The DeLorean With A Flux Capacitor

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.
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12 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

Incidentally, that short story I sent ya had to be written by a prompt. My prompt was the lyric "LA Lady" from Elton John's song, Tiny Dancer. But I was allowed to make LA mean anything I liked so I chose, Lonely A Cappella Lady :o)

Arlee Bird said...

There have been a lot of songs written about L.A. and California in general that's for sure. A favorite of mine with the title "California" is by Compton and Batteau on an album released in 1970. I'd love to find a rerelease on CD. It's a great album.


Lee
Tossing It Out

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

BOID ~
>>...A favorite of mine with the title "California" is by Compton and Batteau on an album released in 1970.

Well, that's a new one on me, Bro! I never even heard of it or them.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

AlliAllo ~
Hey, I like that! Thanks for the insider info!

I'm a little surprised you even know that Elton John song. And although I'm far from an Elton John fan, I would say that's one of his better songs.

Actually, when I was a teenager, I liked a lot of his stuffs, but my taste in music changed drastically as I aged.

However, one of the songs that most immediately transports me back to my youth and a particular place is Elton's song "Philadelphia Freedom". Which is not to say it's my favorite EJ song, but just one that evokes a lot of memories for me.

I don't presently own a single EJ album on CD, but if some label would ever release his soundtrack to the movie "Friends", I would buy it in a heartbeat!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

DiscConnected said...

I never heard the song Lee refers to, either.

The Zevon clips were pretty cool...I was sad when he died.

LC

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

JOHN: "I never met you before, right?"

ZEVON: "That's RIGHT!"

I love the way Warren seems so approachable. He asks the Burrito King customer what his name is and then introduces him to the Dutch television crew.

[And just the way he said, "That's RIGHT!" makes me smile.]

He sings the chorus of "Frank And Jesse James" for the two girls at Griffith Observatory.

I just thought Warren came across as so cool in these videos, and it was really neat to see him at places in L.A. that I myself am so familiar with.

And incidentally, LC, that Burrito King is at the intersection of Sunset and Alvarado, just a few blocks from Echo Park. Now if you were to continue just 2 and a half or three blocks further north on Alvarado from where that Burrito King is standing, you would find yourself where the Pioneer Chicken stand stood - Zevon's almost within spitting distance of it.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Sheboyganboy VI said...

Great Zevon stuff(s)!

One of my favorite LA related songs is "Boulevard" by Jackson Browne (which I quoted from in one of my previous comments; you catch it?) It concerns Hollywood Blvd. I always thought it has a great little hook and rolls right along. I always like JB a lot... except for his politics. Just another naive liberal. At least he is actually serious about it and not just posing.

When I think of LA music, I always think of Tom Petty. He was not originally from California, but made his mark there and lived there for the last 30+ years. He refers to LA area locations occasionally, like in Free Fallin' (Ventura Blvd., Mulholland, Reseda)

Check out this article in the LA Weekly about Petty's haunts in LA:

http://www.laweekly.com/2008-01-17/music/tom-petty-s-los-angeles/

Petty LA map:
http://bigthink.com/ideas/21290

Love Petty! And I will check out that Petty/Doors connection you just emailed me about. As you know, I am not a huge Doors fan, but I can appreciate them in certain ways. I'll look for the sound.

Also, in the comments above you mention "Friends". What an excellent bunch of songwriting THAT was. I have the LP, plus a copy of the movie. Not a great movie, but an interesting one, and I liked it.

A friend of mine knows EJ and attends parties at his house. She was at his birthday party in England a couple of years ago.

On to part six!

PS- Off the LA topic, but you might enjoy this Bruceville map, linked from one of those links above:

http://bigthink.com/ideas/21185

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

MR. SIXBOY ~
Yep, I used to have that Jackson Browne album with "On The Boulevard" on it. The song includes these lines:

Down at the Golden Cup
They set the young ones up
Under the neon light
Selling day for night


I knew what he was singing about because on Hollywood Blvd., on the south side of the street not far from the Scientology headquarters, was The Gold Cup coffee shop, which was a kind of haven for teenage runaways. I often saw lots of lost young souls hanging around near that joint.

I'm afraid I didn't catch your lyric reference because I probably haven't heard that JB song since about 1987. But I got it now - you used it in conjunction with my Echo Park entry. (You got one past me. Good job!)

I have never really thought of Tom Petty as an L.A. singer/songwriter, since I knew he was from Florida and formed his first band there. But you’re right, all of his success took place after moving to L.A. and he has remained a fixture of the city.

I read that article you linked me to. THANKS! That was interesting. It seems Petty has referenced the San Fernando Valley more than any other L.A. location. Kind of odd, really, since the Valley is so uninspiring.

I recall him mentioning “West L.A.” in the song “King’s Road” from what is probably my favorite Petty album, ‘Hard Promises’.

I have ALWAYS wanted to see the movie “Friends” but have never found it available anywhere. Do you have it on DVD or VHS? I’d be very interested in borrowing it, if you wouldn’t mind loaning it to me. But I have no ability to view VHS anymore.

~ D-FensDogg
‘Loyal American Underground’

Sheboyganboy VI said...

Sorry! I only have "Friends" as a VHS copy. I bought an original used VHS copy for my cousin as a present because it is one of her favorite movies. I had seen it in theaters years ago and liked it, so I copied it for myself.

I am sure I have an extra old VHS player that works if you want it! I'll box it up and send it down... just give the word.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

SHEBOYGANBOY BROTHER ~
Ahh, a very, very generous offer, my friend. And I thank you sincerely. But please don't bother. I wouldn't want to put you through that hassle and unnecessary expense. You are indeed kind, but I'm sure someone who wants to make a little money will someday release "FRIENDS" on DVD and I'll get it then.

This is silly, but I'll tell you the main reason I am intrigued and want to see the movie:

I want to see what the girl looks like. ...I used to listen to that soundtrack (in the LP era) and there's one song that has a spoken part, where the English girl says something about - [I'll probably get this wrong because I'm relying on a very, very old memory now, but...] - it having been a beautiful day, and I think she mentions something about "butterflies", and then it ends with her saying, "Now I'm alone".

I always had to imagine what that girl looked like. But with the English accent, and the tone of her soft voice, pleasant voice, it kind of made me think that she was probably an "Emily" type, if you know what I mean.

So, it was the girl's voice that made me fantasize (in a clean way, not dirty!) about who she was, what had happened, and whether or not she was similar to how I imagined my soulmate, "Emily".

Aside from that, there were just some really good songs on that soundtrack. (I loved the title track, and a couple others.)

I'll see it someday, but it's not worth your shipping me a VHS player. Although your generous spirit is greatly appreciated.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Tom Rombouts said...

First, this whole thing is incredible. I moved to L.A. in 1980 with show business dreams (screenwriting) and so much of these places are familiar. But one quick comment - the song "Palisades Park" was actually about the old amusement park in New Jersey, not too far from New York City: http://www.palisadespark.com/

But again, this whole thing is just great!

Tom, Redondo Beach

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

TOM ~
Thanks so much for the compliment, and also for the correction on PALISADES PARK. Good catch! I wrote this so long ago that I can't even remember what I said about Palisades Park.

Fun Fact: Last night I tossed and turned -- barely got 3.5 hours of sleep. My mind was all over the place, and at one point (by strange coincidence) I found myself thinking about being on the Redondo Beach Pier. I used to ride my bike down there a lot, and used to hit that Mexican restaurant on the pier for the All-You-Can-Eat Tuesday Dinners in the late '70s.

Glad you liked this little travelogue I put together. Too bad so many of the videos have now been deleted by YouTube.

Thanks again, Tom!

~ D-FensDogG
'Loyal American Underground'