LA’s fine but it ain’t home

Mr. PolloHaving just returned from a couple weeks away, I was struck by the strength of the ties that bind me to home in the Bay Area. First day at my parents’ house in Massachusetts, and I was already missing healthy food in normal-size portions, Mr. Pollo, exercise options, diversity, tolerance, curiosity, laid-back people, gays, my friends, and my routine in general.

Do people who live elsewhere miss their homes as much when they’re traveling, even while traveling in interesting and wonderful places? Do other people feel such a rush of sweet homecoming when their return flight touches down?

As usual, the pop music of my early years is instructive. There are any number of singers celebrating San Francisco, from Tony Bennett to the Village People, Scott McKenzie to Jefferson Starship. Hey, I never said all the songs were good, but it’s pretty hard to find one that isn’t crazy about the City by the Bay. Can you think of any? I’d say New York is the only other US city to be similarly celebrated in song, though that city’s playlist might be a bit more mixed.

Not to be one of those tedious people who drag out comparisons between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but let’s compare San Francisco and Los Angeles songs. Sure, back in the 60s everyone was happy about “California Girls” (and I guess we’re supposed to be again, though now they’re “gurls”), and the Mamas and the Papas thought all their problems would be solved if they were in LA.

Then something happened. In the 1970s, suddenly everyone found themselves in a giant K-hole and couldn’t wait to get out of town:

  • Neil Diamond ain’t a man who likes to swear, but his “I Am…I Said” (1971) is a big f-you to Los Angeles. New York’s home.
  • Albert Hammond famously flopped in his attempt to make it in LA in “It Never Rains in Southern California” (1972). It pours, man, it pours.
  • LA proved too much for Gladys Knight’s man in “Midnight Train to Georgia” (1973), and she’s taking the next train out of town with him. I think the Pips stayed.
  • Glen Campbell’s “Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in LA)” (1975) is all about longing to be back in Tennessee, which for some reason people seem to think is a great place to be; in songs, anyway.
  • And “she had to leave Los Angeles,” though the reasons are kind of a mixed bag, in “Los Angeles” (1980) by X. Good riddance to bad rubbish, as my mother would say.

I’m not an LA basher. I actually like Los Angeles. But I’ve never lived there, and I probably never will. Nice place to visit, as they say.

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13 thoughts on “LA’s fine but it ain’t home

  1. Spent my youth wanting to move from NY (more specifically LI) for the dream of LA. Having grown up only a mere mile from the beach—and living for the summers—I thought that an Endless Summer would be the ultimate. Got into UCLA for college—but opted for UMASS (UGH:)– and one winter decided to move to LA. Didn’t make it there because all my friends said it wouldn’t be my scene! So here we are in SF–with my fab friend Dave Robb–whom I might not have met othrwise—As the 80s (not 70s) band The Police say, “SYNCHRONICITY!!!!” Xoxo

    • Your friends were right, methinks. Glad you came here instead! The Police’s first album came out in ’79, by the way. I know because I was going out with someone named Roxanne at the time. She even put a red light in her bedroom. Not that it mattered.

  2. Hey Davey – Glad you’re back home, safe and sound. It was fabulous to see you while you were in Massachusetts, although I must say, reading your description of your visit here left me feeling a little sad about living in the Commonwealth! Speaking of MA, I have more than a feeling that there’s a group with the name Boston, and there are a number of pop songs with Boston in the lyrics. In fact, thinking about this makes want to take the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston right now (although I really don’t want to drive all the way out to Stockbridge, to be perfectly honest). Maybe you could please come to Boston for the springtime. The only problem with Boston is that in Boston, no one knows my name.

    • How about Jaynee? When it comes to names, there are no rules. Boston definitely has its charms, my favorite of which is you! xo

  3. Good to see your back on the blog…SF is a special type of grass in this planet of ours. To bash LA is so “usual,” there is no need and no comparison…

    • I’m happy to see you writing again too. There are no bad cities, but some rise above. I was going to reference New Orleans songs as well, but they are really all over the map — mostly about voodoo, whores, history, and the rich jazz/blues traditions…a lot of looking back, not so much celebrating the present. It’s time for a new NOLA anthem. Would you get Angie on that?

  4. I wish I’d have thought of that line about “I Am…I Said” when I wrote my own review of the song a few months ago. Your one line is much better and more succinct than my three paragraphs about it.

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