I’m in San Francisco this week, which I must confess isn’t one of my favorite cities. I’m sorry, I know people adore this place and I’ve had some great times here, but I’m batshit crazy and this city really hits my buttons. It’s so busy and crowded and lit up and noisy. I’m a quiet kind of bunny.
Fortunately for those of you who love the City by the Bay there are plenty of songs out there for your playlist. I’m going to go ahead and assume that Tony Bennett already crossed your mind and go for some deeper cuts. Here we go:
“San Francisco Fan,” Cab Calloway. Lee G. and I went to see Cab Calloway play a free show in Savannah’s Forsythe Park. That was quite a treat, seeing the legendary Calloway pushing 80 and still getting it done. Joe Jackson covered this cut on his Jumpin’ Jive album, but nobody does this one like Cab Calloway.
“Come Back From San Francisco,” The Magnetic Fields. Yeah, they’re critical and hipster favorites, but The Magnetic Fields are pretty awesome. This is off their classic 69 Love Songs album, which is essential listening.
“San Francisco Bay Blues,” Richie Havens. This cut has been covered by a bunch of people, but that late Richie Havens recorded my favorite.
“San Franciscan Nights,” The Animals. This one came out the same year as Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco,” the latter winning the Summer of Love derby. This is a fun one, though, and if it hasn’t appeared in a Wes Anderson movie I’m sure it will eventually.
“Lights,” Journey. Yeah, yeah, it isn’t a deep cut but I wanted to talk about it. Journey was a Bay area band that grew out of another San Francisco band, Santana. Their early albums were kind of prog-jazz, really heavy on musicianship but not very commercial.
I can’t remember who–their management, their label, both–wanted to bring in Steve Perry in an effort to make the band a little more radio friendly. Smart business decision: Journey was huge for a while there.
“Lights” was one of the songs Perry brought to the band, and one of the first he recorded with them. The fun twist here is that it was actually written about San Fran’s rival, Los Angeles. The original lyric was “When the lights go do down in the city / And the sun shines on LA.”
Would it have been a classic? I don’t know, but the final version holds up pretty dammed well, even if the band’s hair and wardrobe don’t.
“Fake Tales of San Francisco,” Arctic Monkeys. I don’t really have anything to say here, other than Arctic Monkeys are awesome and you need to listen to this cut.
“I’m Always Drunk in San Francisco,” Carmen McCrae. I’m not really, but a little social lubrication helps keep the batshit crazy away while I’m there.
There it is, short and sweet: seven songs about San Francisco. I’m going to go back to cowering in my hotel room now.