FIRST OF ALL, I decided to ditch my own complicated rules and just kinda put it together. There are some bad songs on there, and I don’t know what albums everything is off of. Also, I didn’t just use people’s recommendations (there are tons of my own picks), and I did not limit it to 18 to 20 (because I am just posting a list in this space; not making an actual CD). If I burn a copy of the CD, though, there are definitely clear choices of what I would chop. We’d all chop different things, methinks. Diff’rent strokes, man.
What’s interesting about these selections is that some represent memories, others dreams. Some of yours, some of theirs, some of mine.
I feel in some way I’ve always been caught between these two coasts. I’ve never lived in California, yet part of my heart is there. Maybe because two of the people I love most in the entire world are there. One in LA, the other in San Fran. And well pretty much everyone else is in the NY/NJ tri-state area, though there are a few stragglers down South and in the Midwest and in the Pacific Northwest. Okay so the love is everywhere. But I digress.
Making this mix was fun. Over the past 2 weeks, I racked my brain, processing memories and connecting with many people. You’ll notice that in several places I wrote “nominated unwittingly by …” Yeah, it’s a bit of a cop-out. But I feel weird totally claiming these ones because they are so clearly there because of the people I attributed them too.
Is that fair? I attributed a few to my brother Kevin and retroactively asked him yesterday what he’d pick and he said one that I had originally put on there myself and then ended up chopping at the last minute (Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California”). It’s so fundamental, so inherent to me and my brothers that I felt fine about keeping that one just between us. But after talking with him I tacked it back on as number 4 below, lest I feel like a complete shyster. So, you see, it’s complicated and kind of faulty system but oh hell, fuck it.
THANKS EVERYONE FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS AND ENTHUSIASM. Viva la musica!
1. LA Woman/ The Doors ─ An obvious classic to bring in the masses. Nominated, unwittingly, by Kristina a couple of years ago when she made me a mix and put this on there as the first song. At the time I was considering moving to Los Angeles. I could still see myself living there one day … a lucky little lady in the City of Light.
2. Screenwriters Blues/ Soul Coughing ─ Nominated by Kate (a.k.a. Rock Star Goddess) and CB. Never heard of it before, but I really like both the lyrics the sound. You know when people you know are really into music and you either know nothing about it or are only vaguely aware of it? And then you hear it and are like wow – where the hell was I, how did I miss this? Yeah, that’s how I felt. So good, well deserving as a lead song. Gotta start strong.
3. Hollywood Swinging / Kool & the Gang ─ Nominated by me. Representing with some soul up in this thing. (If reading this aloud, read it in the Eddie Murphy “I must save the president” white person voice.)
4. Going to California / Led Zeppelin — Nominated by Kev.
5. Beverly Hills / Weezer ─ Nominated by Anonymous. I dig this pop tune. The catchy sound and the typical Weezer irreverence. NB: If I was a preppy girl, I’d look at this dude. I still remember that clever Buddy Holly video. They seem like funny guys. And I think the lead singer just graduated from Harvard (after like 9 years or something).
6. California Stars/ Billy Bragg with Wilco ─ Also nominated by Anonymous, and fervently endorsed by yours truly. God, isn’t this just the best friggin song? I don’t know how you can’t like it. When I first discovered the Billy Bragg/Wilco collaboration a few years back, I flipped. And this song is the best of the bunch, by far.
7. California Waiting / Kings of Leon ─ Nominated, again unwittingly, by Kristina, who turned me on to this band a few years ago. I still dig them, even though I’m told they are a disappointment when they play live … they’re mainly a studio confection. Who cares, tho? It still sounds good on my stereo. When I hear this song, I think of Kev surfing out in San Fran and the six months to a year that I pondered moving there too, before I started going to a shrink and liking my life in New York.
8. California / Joni Mitchell ─ Nominated, unwittingly again, by Kristina. I love this song. I love the album Blue. I think of Kristina and our fun little home in Chapel Hill. And I think of K down in San Fran, and now in Atlanta. Makes me think of many places, none of them Cali. Many rainy days, many Sundays, many bouts of melancholy have been smoothed out by Joni and this timeless, gorgeous song.
9. California / The Aislers Set ─ Nominated by Reid P. who wrote: “Why it’s so great: It sounds like rainy Northern California springtime. If you didn’t know anything about this band, you’d never guess that this is one 25-year-old woman alone in her basement.” Rock on sister.
10. Lights / Jouney ─ Nominated by LOST and Sara M., a friend from high school who ‘came out’ as a reader of my blog (aw, shucks, really?) with this contest. So good to hear from you, Sara. And props to LOST for the full, fabulous list of submissions. Journey, they really are a solid rock band. And I so love that moment on the MTV special “100 worst videos” with Janine Garafolo, Jon Stewart, Denis Leary, Chris Kattan (anyone else?) when they show the video for “Some Day Love Will Find You” and someone points out that it looks like they are at Home Depot and questions whether a guy in the band is Jeff Foxworthy. You really have to have seen the special to get it, and there is no point of me writing about it here, other than to indulge myself and my brothers who watched it with me … all 5 or 6 times.
11. Losing California / Sloan — Nominated by Kate because it’s her favoritest band ever, and it’s about California. But Kate actually doesn’t love that song as much as many of their others. She notes: “it’s good a one for driving and singing at the top of your lungs.”
12. California Love / 2 Pac & Dre — Nominated by LOST and, if she had participated, E.
13. Route 66 / Nat King Cole — Nominated by LOST because it mentions San Bernadino and making that CA trip … and it’s hip, jazzy, classic.
14. Cradle and all / Ani Di Franco — Nominated by Kate because it was the first song that popped into her head.
15. You Surround Me / Erasure — This old, somewhat obscure Erasure tune was nominated by LOST because she was an Erasure die hard. LOST saw them in concert during the summer of ’92, and when they sang the line “”I love with all the joy of living, ’til the lights go down in New York City,” people went nuts.
16. Down on the Street / The Stooges ─ Nominated by Tommy, a dude I used to work with who knows a ton about music. He was a kindred cool spirit in a very uncool workplace. Always dressed to the 9’s in sharp suits. Then one time I went to a happy hour he invited me to at Beauty Bar on 14th St. He was all white t shirt, jeans, pocket chains and arms COVERED in gnarly tattoos. I was like, what up Clark Kent? And after that every time I saw him I was thinking, yeah – I know why you don’t wear short sleeves on casual summer Fridays. Wink wink.
17. Dirty Boulevard / Lou Reed ─ Nominated by me. Oh crap … just saw that it was on the Wikipedia list. I didn’t know that before, honest.
18. Miss You / The Rolling Stones ─ Nominated by Beth, unwittingly. If she ever read my blog, I think she would pick this song. And I’m fairly certain that I can’t do a mix about New York, the biggest baddest city of all time without including The Rolling Stones, biggest bestest rock band of all time. A British invasion band, no less, that sings incomparable American country, a lot of it about New York. People think I’m Craaaaaaaaaaaaaazay.
19. Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters / Elton John ─ Nominated by Sara M. You are right… excellent lyrics and quintessential Sir Elton. Before he started to suck in the 80s. Though I still love his ruminations on music. He writes a column in Interview magazine that I enjoy. And I also love the Horatio Sans impersonation on SNL.
20. NY State of Mind / Nas ─ Nominated by Anonymous. I dig this song off of Nas’s first and only thoroughly good album, Illmatic. I think my big brother Brian turned me onto it. It was one of his very few rap selections. It was one of those CDs that me and my brothers kept stealing back and forth from each other. I had flirted with including the Billy Joel song “New York State of Mind” as a contrast, but I think we already got the whole heavy vibe from Elton.
21. I Love New York / Madonna ─ Nominated by LOST and my hair stylist, David at XO Blow salon. Gotta say, the lyrics to this song are just awful. “I don’t like cities/ But I like New York / Other places make me feel like a dork.” Horrible! But New York has its fair share of cheese. And Madonna is so revered by the fashion, art and entertainment worlds, not to mention the gay community. And despite my occasional conservative leanings (which I’d argue are mostly economic-based … a Richard Branson brand of libertarianism), they are my people, and my tribe. Them and honchos, economists, and business people of all varieties, if that makes any sense at all (no, it does not). Yeah, I had to have a Madonna song, and this is the one. I love New York …Get off my street!
22. The Choice is yours / Black Sheep — Nominated by LOST and wholly supported by yours truly. I was all over this album my junior year of high school. I remember being hung over and having to drive down to visit Villanova with my Mom and I put this CD on during the ride. My Mom never cared what music I played. It could be hard core Ice Cube and she’d be like: “O.K.” LOST’s favorite part of the song, “Engine, engine number 9, on the New York Transit line, if my train goes off the tracks, pick it up, pick it up, PICK IT UP!”
23. Déjà vu (Uptown Baby) / Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz — Nominated by me. When this Steely-Dan-sampling homage to the Bronx came out, probably in the mid 90s, I immediately bought the single and played it over and over and over, because somehow the fact that it was played constantly on Hot 97 was not enough for me. And then there was a whole controversy over it. Steely Dan got pissed, despite the fact that De La had already sampled them a gazillion times earlier and paid them dearly for it. Can’t quite remember what the crux of the argument was, but you can read up on it here.
24. New York City Cops / The Strokes ─ Nominated by me and, unwittingly, by Kev. We heart the Strokes. Their bad poor little rich boy rock star attitudes. Their good style and good lyrics. Their messy tough guy sound. Their perilous overexposure. This is one of their lesser known hits.
25. The Only Living Boy in New York / Simon & Garfunkel ─ Nominated by me and Sara M. (kinda … she said anything by “Simon and Garfunkel”). This was on the Garden State soundtrack, BTW. I totally dig Zach Braff. The guy is brill and cute to boot.
26. Do You Miss New York / Rosemary Clooney ─ Nominated by me. This is a fabulous song from the auntie of Gorgeous George. And a fitting end to the mix because it’s about people who moved to LA who miss New York (which is what any thinking person’s response would be).