Our theme this week was about a place that’s linked to money, sunshine, fame and freedom. It sounds a lot like my home town of Byron Bay, but no, this week’s program was about the equally tantalising American state of CALIFORNIA.
We started with Al Jolson’s CALIFORNIA HERE I COME. Written for the 1921 Broadway musical Bombo, it’s often called the unofficial state song of California. Another standard is the Mamas & The Papas’ love song to their home state: CALIFORNIA DREAMING. Bobby Womack’s version is, in my opinion, just sublime. Here’s some original footage and images of California in the 50’s, set against his music:
Chuck Berry wrote THE PROMISED LAND while in jail and, apparently, he used the prison library to plot his hero’s trip from Virginia to Los Angeles.
Train is a band that comes from San Francisco so their song, SAVE ME SAN FRANCISCO, is, we assume, straight from the heart. And like a lot of the tunes in today’s list, it’s really about missing someone you’ve left behind. The songs is from the album of the same name, released in 2009.
Led Zeppelin’s GOING TO CALIFORNIA is reportedly about Joni Mitchell. The story goes that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were both infatuated with her at the time. They were all in their early 20’s and it was crazy days for all and sundry. Here’s Led Zepp. playing live at Earls Court in 1975:
Arlo Guthrie contributed a song that’s based on him going through LA airport with a couple of joints in his pocket. Not that I condone that kind of behaviour, of course (!) He performed COMING INTO LOS ANGELES live at Woodstock in 1969 where, it appears, it went down a treat:
Yes, Arlo Guthrie just wants to have some fun. I don’t think he’s the only one. Sheryl Crowe is in a similar state of mind on ALL I WANNA DO.
The Rivieras are also out there havin’ fun on CALIFORNIA SUN, a hit for them in 1964. Albert Hammond’s IT NEVER RAINS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA also reminds me of Byron Bay. Must be the sub-tropical thing. Does this ring a bell? “It Doesn’t Rain in California but girl don’t they warn ya, it pours, it pours.” Sounds like Byron to me.
We followed with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The title of CALIFORNICATION was borrowed for the title of one of my favourite television shows.
Two of the best voices ever belong to Dionne Warwick and Roy Orbison. Warwick sings of being a deflated Hollywood hopeful heading home, on DO YOU KNOW THE WAY TO SAN JOSE? Orbison, who can’t wait to get back to where his lover is – and therefore where the sun always shines – is brilliant on CALIFORNIA BLUE. It’s from his comeback album, Mystery Girl, recorded just before he died in 1988.
I bet you were wondering how long it would take me to play HOTEL CALIFORNIA by The Eagles? Only an hour! Yes how could I not play this song on a show dedicated to songs about California?
Latest media favourite, pop-singer Kate Perry, gets a little bit of help from Snoop Dogg on CALIFORNIA GURLS. Can you believe that this video clip has racked up nearly 50 million hits? Sweet.
Unbelievably, I found a slice of hip-hop I could use with no swear words in it! 2PAC and Dr Dre are almost subdued on CALIFORNIA LOVE. We followed with some Thin Lizzy who know how hard it is to make it in HOLLYWOOD (When you’re down on your luck).
The Sir Douglas Quintet’s MENDOCINO is also a classic. It’s a song about a county in the north of California, renowned for distinctive Pacific Ocean coastline, old growth forests, wine production and liberal views on cannabis. Sounds like it should be Byron Shire’s sister state, doesn’t it?
Everclear do a song about my favourite part of Los Angeles, SANTA MONICA. It’s a place, also not unlike Byron, with a great beach, fantastic restaurants, farmers markets and a laid-back feel to it. The song was written by the band’s lead singer Art Alexakis and its actually quite a melancholy tune about suicide.
When Otis Redding sang about SITTIN’ ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY, it was the very groovy city of San Francisco he was referring to. We followed that with a piece of music that pays homage to the Mexican population of California: The brilliant Chicano rock band Thee Midniters with WHITTIER BOULEVARD.
The Red Hot Chilli Peppers seem to be obsessed with California as they have recorded quite a few tracks about the area. Our second Peppers track was DANI CALIFORNIA which we followed with a number by Tom Petty. FREE FALLING references areas of Los Angeles, from the San Fernando Valley to Ventura Boulevard and Mulholland Drive, all of which conjure up various movies out of Hollywood. Petty has been qouted as saying that the multitude of acoustic guitars on the track were used to create a dreamlke quality.
Now if you really want dreamy, then you can’t go past the epitome of Californian folk/rock, Joni Mitchell, with CALIFORNIA. You can sort of see what those bad boys from Crosby, Stills & Nash and Led Zeppelin saw in her, can’t you?
The song we had to have,of course, was CALIFORNIA GIRLS.When you think of California, you can’t help but think of surfing and, of course, The Beach Boys. They recorded the song in 1965 and it maintains its popularity today, simply because it sums up everything that is great about the beach lifestyle.
Even Kings of Leon do a song about this sunny state. However, CALIFORNIA WAITING doesn’t sound like too much fun somehow. Here they are performing on the Jonathan Ross show:
We finished the show with LA WOMAN, from the last studio album recorded by The Doors before Jim Morrison’s death in July 1971. It’s arguably the most blues/rock oriented tracks that the band recorded.
Now if you would like to contribute to next week’s show, and I hope you do, then the topic will be one that’s close to my heart: SHOPPING. Drop me a line if you have a suggestion or a request.
And as the governor of California would say….. I’LL BE BACK.
Here’s this week’s complete playlist:
California Here I Come – Al Jolson
California Dreaming – The Very Best of Bobby Womack, Bobby Womack
The Promised Land – Chuck Berry Greatest Hits, Chuck Berry
Save Me San Francisco – Save Me San Francisco, Train
Going to California – Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin
Coming into Los Angeles – Woodstock 1969, Arlo Guthrie
All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow
California Sun – The Rivieras
It Never Rains In Southern California – Albert Hammond
Californication – Californication, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Do You Know the Way to San Jose – Her All Time Greatest Hits, Dionne Warwick
California Blue – Mystery Girl, Roy Orbison
Hotel California – Hotel California, Eagles
California Gurls – California Gurls, Kate Perry ft. Snoop Dogg
California Love – All Eyez On Me, 2pac ft. Dr.Dre
Hollywood (Down On Your Luck) – Renegade, Thin Lizzy
Mendocino – Sir Douglas Quintet
California – Orange County Soundtrack, Phantom Planet
Santa Monica – Everclear
Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding
Whittier Blvd. – Latin Oldies, Thee Midniters
Dani California – Stadium Arcadium, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Free Falling – Tom Petty
California – Joni Mitchell, Joni Mitchell
California Girls – Made in U.S.A., The Beach Boys
California Waiting – Holy Roller Novocaine, Kings of Leon
LA Woman – Legacy: The Absolute Best, The Doors