This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Most readers will now know that recently Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I made a trip to stay with my sister in (and around) San Francisco. We also visited Ronni, the Web Mistress, on our travels.
Other places as well which generally lend themselves to having a musical column written about them, which is good for me.
This is a pretty light-hearted column, no profound insights today (as if there ever are any). Just where we went, who we saw and the music that suggested itself to me.
Right. From the beginning.
The flight was a direct one, Melbourne to Los Angeles. Only 13 hours in the air. They are getting faster. Naturally, we landed at L.A. International Airport and by a coincidence, there’s a song of that name by SUSAN RAYE.
I bet you hoped you would never hear that one again, but it’s my job to remind you of these songs.
From L.A., it was an up and down commuter flight to San Jose. This was on Alaskan Airways and initially it was difficult to find where Alaskan was, as it was some considerable distance from the international terminal.
Thus at first, we didn’t know the way to San Jose and if that’s not a bleeding obvious cue for a song I don’t know what is. DIONNE WARWICK, of course, with Do You Know the Way to San Jose?
I was rather surprised by the plane. It had propellers. I can’t remember when I was last on a plane that had propellers, at least not one that belonged to an airline.
My sister and brother-in-law picked us up and we drove to their home in Los Gatos. There’s a song about this town too, written by Woody Guthrie. It’s called Deportee and has a subtitle, Plane Wreck at Los Gatos.
It’s about immigrant workers who were rounded up and sent back to Mexico by plane in 1948. Unfortunately, the plane crashed killing everyone on board. Not a very cheery topic but it’s a good song.
Actually the crash was in Los Gatos Canyon, not the town itself which is some quite some distance away.
The version I’ve chosen is by THE BYRDS, a group for whom I will always find a spot if possible.
After a few days, we were off to Mendicino. Okay, technically it was Fort Bragg but I don’t know any songs about that town. We did visit Mendicino a couple of times as it’s only about seven miles away.
There’s also has a terrific song about it sung by LINDA RONSTADT called Talk to Me of Mendicino.
From there it was back to San Francisco where we enjoyed the delights of that city, a good proportion of which seemed to involve food and wine. Come to think of it, that wasn’t the only place where that applied.
There are two songs that spring instantly to mind when that city is mentioned and I’m sure you’ve thought of both of them. The A.M. wanted Mickey Newbury’s song, San Francisco Mabel Joy but I opted for the obvious.
If you regarded L.A. International Airport as a hoary old song, I think this one is its equal in the hoary stakes. Yep, SCOTT MCKENZIE with San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).
After hanging around San Francisco and Los Gatos for a while, the A.M. and I took the train to Portland. It’s a lot more fun on a train than flying, although somewhat longer.
Somewhat? Huh. However, training through northern California and Oregon in an observation car is hard to beat.
I can’t think of any songs about Portland, although I’m sure there are some. Stop Press: Thanks to Dr Google I found there’s a CD called “The Portland Songs Project.” However, I’ve never heard of any of the songs featured so I’ll go with my original statement.
The W.M. put us up for a few days and drove us around to various places, including several spectacular waterfalls. At one stage we were driving somewhere when we came across Highway 101. We all burst into Black Denim Trousers.
Okay, I burst into that song. The A.M. and the W.M. were trying to shut me up, or at least, ignore me. I think it was about this stage that the W.M. asked if I knew a song about every possible thing.
Pretty much, was my reply, trying to appear encyclopaedic (and lying through my teeth, but don’t tell her that).
Here are THE CHEERS with that song, another one written by Leiber and Stoller, and a hit for The Cheers in 1955.
Naturally, we came upon the Columbia River. Quite often, in fact. I have seen it before, but every time I come across it my reaction is “Holy Moley”. We Australians are impressed with a river that just flows all year round. This is way beyond that.
WOODY GUTHRIE, again, wrote a song about it. Well, he wrote several, but this is the pick of them. As far as I know, this is the only version of Woody’s that’s still around. It has some surface noise, but hey, it’s Woody. Roll On Columbia.
After Portland, we journeyed further north (and a little east) to stay with my nephew and his wife in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. This is a pretty little city with mountains all around it which makes even boring shopping a pleasure.
I know of one song that mentions the place and we have IRIS DEMENT again. I have seen recently that some of you are starting to like Iris. I’ll keep trying. This is Easy’s Getting Harder Every Day.
I then did everything pretty much in reverse. Well, I wasn’t walking backwards or any such thing, just returning to places whence I came previously. You may recall an entertaining (in retrospect) wait for the bus in Spokane.
I won’t bother mentioning again Portland, Los Gatos and San Francisco.
Time to go home. The plane from San Jose to Los Angeles once again had propellers as it was Alaskan. This plane landed in L.A. and taxied. And taxied and taxied and taxied. Seems like we’d soon be in San Diego, but nope we were still in L.A. Indeed, still in the airport.
Eventually we stopped. We got out and walked across the tarmac. It was not only a propeller plane but we deplaned the old fashioned way as well in one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world.
All that taxiing reminded me of the MICHELLE SHOCKED song, Come a Long Way.
The flight home took 15 hours, all but the last hour of it in the dark.
Now we’re back home, there is an obvious and clichéd way to end this. I mentioned this to the A.M. and she was aghast. “You’re not”, she said. Oh yes I am.
You had a clue earlier in the piece and here it is. TONY BENNETT with I left My Heart in San Francisco.