There are a ton of songs written out there about California, but for this article, I’ll be focusing on songs related to Los Angeles and Hollywood. Some of these tracks praise this city, while others portray the darker side of the City of Angels. So, while this was hard to narrow down as well, I give you the top ten songs about L.A. and Hollywood.
Number Ten: “So L.A.” by The Motels. “So L.A.” is a song by The Motels, off of their 1982 album, All Four One. Lyrics include, “Jimmy cracked when he came out here / precious dream never seemed so clear / now he practiced a thousand times / the city that should have been his that night” and “walk of the woman that came to say / she come and walk there every day / her specialty was you, and she / dream the same but incomplete.” The song ends with, “walk of time as time goes on / walk of pain as pains prolonged / and the dream and the woman and the time and you / are all very welcome to Hollywood,” while the chorus goes, “and the man on the corner got something new / and something new is good for you tonight / oh, oh, it’s so L.A.” Most know that those that travel to L.A. are typically dreamers, seeking some kind of new life; unfortunately dreams can turn sour.
Number Nine: “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. “Hollywood Nights” is a song by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, off of their 1978 release, Stranger In Town. Lyrics include, “she stood there bright as the sun on that California coast / he was a Midwestern boy on his own / she looked at him with those soft eyes, innocent and blue / he knew right then he was too far from home” and “she took his hand and she led him along that golden beach / they watched the waves tumble over the sand / they drove for miles and miles up those twisting turning roads / higher and higher and higher they climbed.” The chorus is the following: “And those Hollywood nights / in those Hollywood hills / she was looking so right / in her diamonds and frills…” The song ends with, “night after night, day after day, it went on and on / then came that morning he woke up alone / he spend all night staring down at the lights of L.A. / wondering if he could ever go home.” This is a pretty upbeat tune, despite the lyrics suggesting that the “boy” is stuck in the L.A. lifestyle.
Number Eight: “Angeles” by Elliott Smith. “Angeles” is a song by Elliott Smith, off of his 1997 album, Either/Or. The song begins, “someone’s always coming around here, trailing some new kill / says I’ve seen your picture on a hundred dollar bill / and what’s a game of chance to you, to him is one of real skill / so glad to meet you, Angeles.” The song continues, “picking up the ticket shows there’s money to be made / go on and lose the gamble that’s the history of the trade / did you add up all the cards left to play to zero / and sign up with evil, Angeles.” The last verse goes, “I could make you satisfied in everything you do / all your secret wishes could right now be coming true / and be forever with my poison arms around you / no one’s gonna fool around with us / so glad to meet you, Angeles.” This song seems to use L.A. as a metaphor for all the destructive forces and people that surround the narrator, especially those in the music business who perhaps wanted Elliot to sell out.
Number Seven: “Drinking in L.A.” by Bran Van 3000. “Drinking in L.A.” is a song by Bran Van 3000, off of their 1997 release, Glee. Lyrics include, “but we did nothing / absolutely nothing that day / and I say, what the hell am I doing drinking in LA at 26 / I got the fever for the flavor / know the payback will be later / still I need a fix” and “the girls on the bus kept laughing at us / as we rode on the 10 down to Venice again / blaring out the g-funk sipping on juice and gin / just me and friend / feeling kind of groovy workin’ on a movie.” The song ends with, “Hell-a-LA / hell hell-A, LA.” This is the perfect driving song to listen to, especially if you’re in L.A. and you feel a little bit lost.
Number Six: “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” by Billy Joel. It was between this track and “Los Angelenos,” however this song is one of my personal favorites by Mr. Joel. “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” can be found on his 1976 album, Turnstiles, as well as his 1981 live album, Songs in the Attic. Lyrics include, “Bobby’s drivin’ through the city tonight / through the lights in a hot new rent-a-car / he joins the lovers in his heavy machine / it’s a scene down on Sunset Boulevard / say goodbye to Hollywood / say goodbye my baby.” The song continues, “movin’ on is a chance that you take / any time you try to stay together / whoa / say a word out of line / and you find that the friends you had / are gone forever.” The song ends with, “so many faces in and out of my life / some will last / some will just be now and then / life is a series of hellos and goodbyes / I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again.” Supposedly Billy wrote this song after leaving LA for New York; apparently he wasn’t too fond of the city.
Number Five: “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” by Father John Misty. “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” is a song by Father John Misty, off of his 2012 album, Fear Fun. Lyrics include, “Jesus Christ, girl / what are people gonna think / when I show up to one of several funerals / I’ve attended for grandpa this week / with you / with me / but someone’s gotta help me dig” and “Jesus Christ, girl / I laid up for hours in a daze / retracing the expanse of your American back / with Adderall and weed in my veins.” Other lyrics include, “Jesus Christ, girl / it hasn’t been long so it seems / since I was picking out an island and a tomb for you / at the Hollywood Cemetery.” As you may already know, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one of the oldest burial grounds in L.A. Whether this track is about being with an intense, unpredictable woman, or drugs and sex, or the artist’s relationship with his father, or all of the above, it’s an excellent song.
Number Four: “Hollywood” by The Runaways. “Hollywood” is a song by The Runaways, off of their 1977 release, Queens of Noise. Lyrics include, “each night alone I dream / that I’m a rebel roller queen / I’ll be a star that shines / I can make the whole world mine / each day at home I scheme / for the fame and fortune dream / gonna be a superstar / with my fancy clothes and cars.” The chorus is simply the repeated line, “Hollywood, it feels so good.” This is the perfect song for anyone looking to move to Hollywood in the hopes of achieving stardom.
Number Three: “Join Me in L.A.” by Warren Zevon. “Join Me in L.A.” is a song by Warren Zevon, off of his 1976 self-titled album. The song begins, “well, they say this place is evil / that ain’t why I stay / cause I found something / that will never be nothing / and I found it in LA / it was midnight in Topanga / I heard the DJ say / there’s a full moon rising / join me in LA / wake up, wake up / I was at the Tropicana / on a dark and sultry day / had to call someone long distance / I said, join me in LA.” This is an underrated song from an underrated artist, that describes both the pros and cons of living in the city of angels.
Number Two: “Wrong Way to Hollywood” by Wall of Voodoo. “Wrong Way to Hollywood” is a song by Wall of Voodoo, off of their 1988 live album, The Ugly Americans in Australia. The song begins, “he walked into a Mexican restaurant / looking for some pills / she shivered on Cahuenga and Yucca / she couldn’t shake the chills / an old man walked out of the greyhound station / where did my wallet go / and Jimmy searching lost and last seen / his mother will never know / he took the wrong way, the wrong way to Hollywood.” The song continues, “a Babylon place where blondes die young / it’s a g-string girl’s revenge / young boys baiting on S&M and Highland for family men / the old soft shoe goes on and on / and the chumps are down for the count / and the ones who last the longest get their screen test at Paramount.” The song ends with, “a flash of nausea, a trembling hand / falling where we stood / in a shallow doorway grave / lay me down in Hollywood.” Essentially, this song describes the dark underbelly of LA.
Number One: “L.A. Woman” by The Doors. “L.A. Woman” is a song by The Doors, off of their 1971 album of the same name. The song begins, “well, I just got into town about an hour ago / took a look around, see which way the wind blow / where the little girls in their Hollywood bungalows / are you a lucky little lady in the City of Light / or just another lost angel / city of night, city of night.” Other lyrics include, “drivin’ down your freeway / midnight alleys roam / cops in cars / the topless bars / never saw a woman / so alone, so alone / motel, money, murder, madness / let’s change the mood from glad to sadness.” Of course, this is also the song where Morrison used his anagram, “Mr. Mojo Risin’,” while also he references a novel he read by John Rechy called City of Night. This is another track which describes the seedy undertones of the city of Los Angeles, and in my opinion, it’s the best song ever written about the city.