Interesting Stuff – 28 April 2018
The Wit and Wisdom of TGB Readers – Part 1

ELDER MUSIC: Songs About Cities - Los Angeles

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

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Los Angeles

I worked for some time in Los Angeles and it was pleasant enough where I was, but not a place I'd choose to live. However, because it's one of the music centres of the world, there are a bunch of songs about it so it makes my task of choosing them easy.

I found more about Hollywood, enough so that I have a spinoff from this one. That will appear at a later date (or earlier, depending on how we schedule these things). Everyone in the world knows about L.A., so you don't need me to waffle on about it. I'll just play music about it.

One of the most famous bands associated with the city would be THE DOORS.


Not only associated with the city, but they wrote about it as well. Their best known song about L.A. would be L.A. Woman.

♫ The Doors - L.A. Woman

Freeways are synonymous with L.A. and GUY CLARK has written a song about them.

Guy Clark

It almost certainly is the best one on that topic. That's not surprising as there were few better songwriters around than Guy. This is from his very first album "Old No. 1" and it's called L.A. Freeway.

♫ Guy Clark - L.A. Freeway

The last several trips into the country, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist and I were Coming Into Los Angeles. However, we weren't bringing in anything that would be problematic to the authorities. In contrast, ARLO GUTHRIE seems to be doing just that.


The song now is pretty famous as it was included in the film "Woodstock". The version I'll use is the original one from his album "Running Down the Road".

♫ Arlo Guthrie - Coming Into Los Angeles

RANDY NEWMAN’s songs are all ambivalent to some degree.

Randy Newman

“Does he really mean that?” is often the usual response. Sometimes the answer is an obvious “No.” Other times, we can’t really be sure. Make up your own mind about I Love L.A.

♫ Randy Newman - I Love L.A.

In contrast to Randy, WARREN ZEVON seems less sanguine about the city.

Warren Zevon1

Although associated with other L.A. singer/songwriters like Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther and Glenn Frey, Warren’s songs were much darker, violent and more ironic as well. This is his ode to the city, Carmelita.

♫ Warren Zevon - Carmelita

DEAN MARTIN was usually associated in mind with Las Vegas.

Dean Martin

That’d be due to all that “Rat Pack” nonsense, and their almost continuous performances in that city. He was famously born in Steubenville, Ohio, but in this song, Dino assures us that L.A. Is My Home.

♫ Dean Martin - L.A. Is My Home

GLEN CAMPBELL seems to want it both ways (and don’t read anything into that).

Glen Campbell

He claims to be a country boy but he lives in the city, that city being Los Angeles where he was a session musician for quite some time before he became one of the biggest country artists around. His song, that reflects that, is Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.).

♫ Glen Campbell - Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.)

KENNY BUTTERILL has said that he admired the great guitarist and songwriter J.J. Cale.

Kenny Butterill

It seems to me that he does more than admire him; he seems to be channeling him as well. There are worse people to emulate. Kenny is rather modest about his achievements – the song I’ve chosen is from his album “Just a Songwriter”. It’s called Making Love in L.A.

♫ Kenny Butterill - Making Love in L.A.

JOHN PHILLIPS was Papa John from The Mamas and The Papas.

John Phillips

He, and they, are associated with Los Angeles, which is where they began as a group. John was the main songwriter and afterwards, he recorded a couple of really fine albums that weren’t very successful, which is a bit of a shame.

From the first of those, “John, The Wolf King of L.A.” is Topanga Canyon, where many of the L.A. musicians hung out (probably still do).

♫ John Phillips - Topanga Canyon

There was a big hit in the early sixties by a group called THE SURFARIS.


Well, they had a few hits but the song I'm interested in is Surfer Joe and it name-checked several places around Los Angeles (and further south). I've recently found an extended version of the song that has even more names, so I'm going with that one of course. Here it is.

♫ The Surfaris - Surfer Joe (long version)


Surprisingly, since I worked in L.A. off-and-on for several years, I don't recall ever having heard "L.A. Woman". Also surprising since I, as you, enjoyed my months-long temporary assignments there, I've never heard a song about L.A. that I liked.

Thank you for the brief tour down memory lane. I have heard the music of most of these artists and like your perspective on many of them.

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