Rabe’s top 5 Los Angeles songs, from California's 'Sunset' pig to arson in Frank's Wild Years

Joni Mitchell seated beside poet Joaquine. Standing behind are the Voguing Popes: Bret Boreman, Steven Arnold and J.V. McCuley.

I just received an irresistible invitation, coming, as it did, on the heels of last week’s discussion of the best pop melody. My friend Paige Osburn just debuted an LA music podcast called Gateway Band LA. The podcast includes a segment in which a person reveals their top 5 songs about LA, and Paige asked me to do the honors this time.

Here’s my top 5:

#1 is “California” by Joni Mitchell from her 1971 album Blue, a lovely, melancholy but comforting tale about missing the comforts of California in a stupid, disappointing world. She’ll be happy to come back and “I’d even kiss a Sunset pig,” which I take to be an LAPD officer.

#2 is “MacArthur Park,” as sung by its creator, Jimmy Webb, on Saturday, June 15, at Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park. It’s a cantata that gives a impressionistic take on the park, love, and longing.

#3 is “A Good Day,” by Ice Cube, a song he says he wrote after musing in his hotel room that “I rap all this gangsta stuff,” but had never written about the good days he had. I’m not looking for cred by naming a rap song. In general, I just don’t get it, but this song works for me.

#4 is Neil Diamond’s 1971 single, “I am … I said,” which the Daily Telegraph apparently called a symphony of “raging existential angst.” I dig the opening spoken lyrics, “LA’s fine, the sun shines most the time, and the feeling is laid back. Palm trees grow and the rents are low, but you know I keep thinking about making my way back.”

And #5 is another mostly spoken word song, “Frank’s Wild Years,” from Tom Waits’ 1983 album Swordfishtrombones. I’d love to make a video of this story of a lost life starring KPCC’s Frank Stoltze, but looks like Waits beat me to it.

What are your picks? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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