Jody from the fantastic blog When You Awake—your sympathetic destination if homesick, lonesome, riled, fiery or any mindstates in between—presents us with this week’s mixtape, dedicated to cosmic cowboy/cowgirl rock songs about the city of Los Angeles. (City of doom and freeways, too.) Listen to Jody’s radio show Mondays 2-4 PM on Little Radio and go see her DJ at Gold Dust at Footsie’s in Highland Park one lucky day each month! And now to the tape…
1. John Mayall “Vacations”
“Ten hours in a plane – England left behind / Back here in L.A. – Wonder what I’ll find / Summertime, my plane is coming down / I’m a wandering man and this is gonna be my town.” An ode to Los Angeles from the man that gave us Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and more.
2. Gene Clark “Los Angeles”
Gene Clark was one of the original Byrds who ended up leaving the group because of—get ready for the irony—a fear of flying. Roger McGuinn famously (or infamously) told him, “You can’t be a Byrd, Gene,
if you can’t fly.” He went on to release a number of amazing solo records and some amazingly beautiful and haunting songs that have been covered by everyone like “Through The Morning, Through The Night” (which also happens to be one of my favorite songs ever) and “Train Leaves Here This Morning.”
3. Jim Ford “Working My Way To L.A.”
Country soul! Kentucky born Jim Ford was living in New Orleans when he decided to make the move out to L.A. I, too, moved to Los Angeles from the South (Nashville, Tennessee, to be exact), so this tune holds a
special place in my heart.
4. Flying Burrito Brothers “Sin City”
Nothing says Southern California Country quite like Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Sing it, boys.
5. Arlo Guthrie “Coming Into Los Angeles”
I’ve always loved the way he says “Los Angeleeeeze”. It’s like that Swiss Dairy ad I see all around town: you can’t say “Los Angeleeeeze” without smiling. Forced L.A. positivity!
6. New Riders of the Purple Sage “L.A. Lady”
I’m a total sucker for male/female vocals and the background vocals on this tune by Grateful Dead member Donna Jean Godchaux are no exception. She’s kind of low in the mix and only comes in for a short stint right at the end, but she straight-up sounds like a young Loretta Lynn with the way she sings “cry.”
7. Leslie and the Badgers “Los Angeles”
The only song on this mix recorded post-1980, this beautiful tune was released last week on their first full length record, Roomful of Smoke. When I truly like a song, it goes on repeat in my car, on my
computer, everywhere and well…let’s just say I’ve only had it for a week and it’s already in my Top 25 Most Played Songs in iTunes.
8. Guy Clark “L.A. Freeway”
I first heard this song in the movie Heartworn Highways, which is a must-see documentary that covers a handful of country troubadours like Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, David Allan Coe and more. All versions of this tune are great, but I much prefer Clark’s understated version that appears at the beginning of the film to his proper studio recording or Jerry Jeff Walker‘s version.
9. John Phillips “Topanga Canyon”
Papa John Phillips (of the Mamas and the Papas) wrote a number of love songs to Los Angeles, including “California Dreamin’” and “Twelve Thirty”, but I decided to choose this from his 1970 solo record John The Wolf King of L.A. which focuses on Topanga Canyon. I love how this song builds from a single guitar to a full on sing-a-long.
10. Jimmy Payne “L.A. Angels”
When I was putting this mix together, I found that a number of musicians have a love/hate relationship with L.A. There are so many songs about coming to L.A. to find fame and fortune and then failing and moving home. My experience of L.A. has been so different, however, and I really wanted to end this mix with a song that perfectly describes my feelings for this vastly underrated town. I mentioned this desire to my friend Chad Brown (of local L.A. band C.B. Brand), and he told me he had just the track to ease my troubled mind. Ease it he did with this brilliant little gem of a tune. I just want to say, I love you L.A. Thanks for all the wonderful years.
Other notable L.A. tunes:
The Beatles’ “Blue Jay Way”, the Kinks’ “Celluloid Heroes”, Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies of the Canyon”, Rosewood Thieves’ “Los Angeles”, Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land”, Neil Young’s “L.A.”, Love’s “Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale.”