Musical Mnemonics 2: Songs About Los Angeles

Some classic albums here. They remind me of high school (first two, at least), being at my parent’s house, listening to music like crazy. I listened to music all the time. In my room, when I was drawing, writing, doing math or whatever. Sometimes if I had a “spare” class right before lunch I would walk home, make some macaroni and cheese and blast this stuff on my parent’s stereo. My grandmother must of thought I was crazy. She would be mopping the floors or weeding the garden and I’d be teenaging all around the house, learning Nirvana songs on my acoustic guitar. On a school day, even.

Fucking hell.

Anyhow, this post is about songs that I invariably think about when I visit Los Angeles, California, United States of America, North America, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Local Cluster, The Universe. They endear the city to me. Before I went there, everybody was always saying: “Oh, I hate LA, it’s too big, you need a car, etc, etc.” When I first visited to play shows in like 2004 or something, I remained apprehensive. And during subsequent visits, the city in all its vastitude grew on me. I explored and discovered new neighbourhoods, and would be reminded of cultural references made to the city in movies, TV shows and in music. LA is a behemoth, yes, but it can’t be ignored. In my dream life, I spend my winters in Los Angeles.

Beastie Boys. “Do It” from Ill Communication. LA Reference: “Glendale Boulevard / Boulevard! / Glendale Boulevard / that’s where I’m at.” I listened to a lot of Beastie Boys in high school, and for a while really embraced the skateboarding, slacker culture. Surprisingly, I think the self-motivated, slacker attitude is what granted me a certain independence as a teenager, an inspiration that supercharged my creativity, making anything possible. Slackers were, really, the inspired youth of the 90’s. A slacker lifestyle enabled us to *ahem* stick it to the man, as it were. And I strongly encourage outside thinking (inside-out thinking works too) at all times. Laziness and/or apathy, however, are not acceptable.

A Tribe Called Quest. “I Left my Wallet in El Segundo” from People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. LA Reference: Chorus: “I left my wallet in El Segundo / I gotta get it, I got-gotta get it.” I sympatise. El Segundo is out by the airport. Once, I think we had to go there on tour to get our RV fixed. We did not leave our wallets behind.

Beck. “Girl” from Guero. LA Reference: Well, this is a weird one. While it seems the entire video is set in LA, I always mistook the lyrics of the chorus. I remember at the time there was a bit of a debate over what he was saying there, and even all those sketchy lyrics websites still can’t agree. I’ve seen: my summer girl, my sun-eyed girl, my cyanide girl, maizena girl. I always thought he was singing “La Cienega,” like the name of the street in LA. Listening to the song again, I am assured that I am way off. But whenever I see a street sign for La Cienega, I can’t help singing the name to the chorus of this song. And the video is fuggin’ amazing.

Suddenly All Growed Up

Do you remember when it happened to you? Those years when you suddenly stopped being a child? It’s hard to recognise it when it’s actually happening: you only see it when you’ve fully grown and start to feel somehow redeemed as an adult human. My moment – triggered by the responsibility of a ‘zine – would mark the beginning of the end of innocence: no more Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Street Cents (back when it was hosted by Jonathan Torrens) after school. Then I would retreat to my room to listen to Vauxhaull and I, The White Album or Dark Side of the Moon on headphones. I would draw in ink and markers, urging out my teenage frustrations onto paper.

So what? Do I even know what I’m talking about? That is, am I that “redeemed adult human” I claim to be? Probably not. I mean, I fill empty hours playing video games and visiting perezhilton.com. I contemplated us adults, the grupsters, if you will: in following Wired.com coverage of the SXSW Interactive conference, I’ve realised how pervasive nerdiness is in our generation. We are attached by the hip to our gadgets and laptops, and we are suddenly crippled without WiFi or at least some kind of internet connection. I mean, during the last snowstorm here in Montreal, I considered the risk of a power outage, and that I’d might as well throw my iBook in the garbage should our wireless network go down. What am I going to do…organise my photos or edit a document? Actually, I wouldn’t be able to even do that since I started using Google Docs instead of shelling out for some bogus Microsoft software.

And the kids of today are just getting deeper into it. We joke about how Neptune will mock us when we mention cassette tapes: her music will just get downloaded directly into her brain or something like that. Preteens have mobile phones and have figured out BitTorrent. Neptune is surprisingly quick at learning how our gadgetry works: she can play games on my DS, un-hold and use the iPod, scroll through photos on my BlackBerry, put DVDs into and turn on the PS3, and click my laptop’s trackpad to start playback of funny cat videos on YouTube. And she’s only been here for 30 months.

This blog post doesn’t really have a thesis or point, so I will end my ramblings here. Maybe that’s what adulthood grants: long, rambling, roundabout thoughts in lieu of a youthful stroboscopic bombardment of media.