And a really cool place.I mean think about it. We’ve got an ocean, mountains, palm trees, big cities, small cities. Basically, everything that’s cool. So why wouldn’t people want to write about California?
One thing about Caifornia songs is that they all tend to be about places on the coast. So you don’t see a lot of songs about, say, Modesto or Barstow.
Of course, not all the songs are positive. Usually, the ones that aren’t complain about artificial people (those songs are usually about L.A.) or broken dreams (also usually about L.A.)
I’m still waiting for a song about San Luis Obispo. But for now we’ll have to settle for the Beach Boys’ song “California Saga,” which has a line about Morro Bay.
That said, here are my Top 15 Songs About the Golden State:
15.) “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” Tony Bennett. Yeah, it’s an oldie, but come on — this classic song about the City by the Bay holds up. With nice images about the cable cars and windy waters.
14.) “Celebrity Skin,” Hole. You might have expected “Malibu” by Hole to make this list, but I just like this song — about being famous in Hollywood — more. I had considered “L.A. Woman” by the Doors in this slot, but I’m sort of tired of that one.
13.) “California Dreamin’,” The Mamas & Papas. I’m not a huge fan of the M’s&P’s choiry vocals, but this is a good song for those freezing suckers out east who wish they were us.
12.) “San Francisco Days,” Chris Isaak. I must like this song, because I include it in a lot of my Top lists. But when I hear it, I can’t help but see myself driving across the Golden Gate Bridge.
11.) “Coming to Los Angeles,” Arlo Guthrie. More rocking than folksy, this song got a lot of notoriety from the “Woodstock” movie.
10.) “All I Wanna Do,” Sheryl Crow. “This ain’t no disco — this is L.A.” This former Record of the Year is just about wanting to have fun in L.A. until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Bvd. And, frankly, I think that’s a noble goal.
9.) “I Love L.A.” Randy Newman. Written in jest — typical for Newman — this song became an anthem for the City of Angels. Includes nods to cars, warm weather and bums. Frank Sinatra’s “L.A. Is My Lady” — a less sarcastic tribute to the city — came out around the same time.
8.) “California Girls,” Beach Boys. Of course, the Beach Boys have lots of California songs. But this one — which gives a nod to girls everywhere, but says the ones in Cali are better — stands out.
7.) “A Long December,” Counting Crows. “And it’s one more day up in the canyon, and it’s one more night in Hollywood.” Sure, Adam Duritz can be whiny. But this works for that stroll through Topanga Canyon.
6.) “Free Fallin,” Tom Petty. If you’re out to become famous, there’s no better place to free fall than L.A. Lots of places named here, including Resedsa and Ventura Bvd.
5.) “Going to California,” Led Zeppelin. Supposedly inspired by Joni Mitchell’s “California,” I just love this soft, melodic Zep song.
4.) “California,” Joni Mitchell. Hey — anyone who inspires a Zeppelin song needs to get credit. Besides, this song — from her famous “Blue” album — features great lyrics and those legendary vocals.
3.) “Road Trippin’,” Red Hot Chili Peppers. Okay, this may not be better than some of the others below it, but since the Chili Peppers have so many California songs, I think they deserve to be higher up. This was written about a surf trip to Big Sur. Another favorite: “Californication,” one of those L.A.-is-plastic songs.
2.) “Santa Monica,” Everclear. Musically simple, I just love the song’s deep guitar riff and the emotional vocals. Though it suggests less than happy times, it still makes you long for palm trees and breakers.
1.) “Hotel California,” The Eagles. This is the song that made the band synonymous with Southern California rock even though none of the later members were actually from California. There were lots of rumors about this having satanic references, but Don Henley said it was more about L.A. excess.
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