Southern California environment news and trends

Song of the Week: "Santa Ana Winds," about an LA arsonist


This view from NASA's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer shows the pattern of airborne dust stirred up by Santa Ana winds on February 9, 2002. (via JPL)

Maybe you thought you were free and clear of Pacific Swell making any more songs of the week. In which case you would be wrong. I’m off to a slow start in 2012, but at least it's a good start. I don't know where you were New Year's Eve, but I was in Hollywood, wondering if a German guy was going to torch my car and if I left anything important in there. 

The first song of the year is about a southern California arsonist. It’s called “Santa Ana Winds.” You can listen to it at the website of the band called Sons of Bill

Ain’t no one to blame
we all look the same
and it’s maybe just the course of evolution
and it surely seems to me that predictability 
is quickly becoming something you can count on
when all through the night as the headlights shine so bright 
and they’re staring at me like I’m to blame
rolling in and out of LA county and they’re calling out my name
they’re calling out my name
…at the end Santa Ana winds are going straight to my head
when the sun comes up there won’t be no tomorrow 
in the valley of the dead in the valley of the dead

UCLA's Robert Fovell has a wonderful page explaining Santa Ana winds and another describing (with wind plots) how a Santa Ana event develops. As a transplant, I find this subject endlessly fascinating.

"Santa Ana Winds" explores the romance of the Santa Anas. Never forget your Raymond Chandler: "those hot dry [winds] that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen."

(Also, the spoken word part at the beginning is William Faulkner…“when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, even then there will still be one more sound, a man’s puny and inexhaustible voice…” How do you not love that?)

When all through the night the moon that shines so bright 
and it lights up the sheets on my bed
But tonight I’m going to light that San Fernando with kerosene instead
With kerosene instead with kerosene instead with kerosene instead
Oh at the end Santa Ana winds are going straight to my head
When the sun comes up there won’t be no tomorrow
in the valley of the dead in the valley of the dead

Sons of Bill are a Virginia-based band, and I’d like them even if they didn’t include James Wilson, a former student at Deep Springs College, where my sister Katie taught for many years. From a cached page on their old website, here’s where they got their name; from their dad: 

Bill Wilson is from central Virginia. He is a professor of philosophical theology, a songwriter, an expert on the southern agrarian movement, and a father of six.
His three eldest sons returned to Virginia to start a rock band in 2006 with long-time musical compadres Seth Green and Todd Wellons. As a tribute to the man who taught them how to play guitar, write songs, drive a stick-shift, and back up a trailer, the band decided to name themselves Sons of Bill.

A week from now, I’ll stick this on a grooveshark playlist, as we’ve been doing with songs of the week so far. But in the meantime, I’m going to encourage you to go here and download it yourself. They’re an up-and-coming band, and the album’s not out yet, and after all, you don’t have to give ‘em your email for the .mp3, though I’m going to guess that you will. 

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