Songs for Our City: John Phillips is the Wolf King of L.A.
There's a song for every neighborhood in this sprawling octopus of a metropolis. The psychedlic folk of Topanga Canyon, the booty droppin' bass of Compton, and lonesome gristle of Silver Lake. This week, as a sonic portrait of Los Angeles, West Coast Sound presents: Songs for our City.
THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS helped create the 1960's countercultural migration to the Left Coast by stirring up hippie manifest destiny with their iconic song, "California Dreamin'." But when it comes to Los Angeles, the slightly psychedelic folksters only gave a little love to their adopted hometown. The song from their debut album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, mentions L.A. only in passing: (I'd be safe and warm / if I was in L.A.), and their later effort, "12:30 (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon)" pitted Topanga Canyon's musical community against the New York's scene.
Yet the best depiction of L.A. and Topanga Canyon's era of psychedelia came from John Phillips, who released his first country tinged solo album, John, the Wolf King of L.A., in 1970. The album was commercially unsuccessful, but the shuffling songs, tied together with pedal-steel guitar and the lazy saunter of Phillips' voice, make the record a forgotten find. Phillips lays out a map of Los Angeles, marked with his own emotional connections to neighborhoods. He also reveals some of his narcotic connections too:
Sometimes I drive out to Topanga
and I park my car in the sand
watching for a pick up
from my man
With the recent resurgence of Los Angeles psychedelic folk history (re-releases of cult rockers Yahowa 13 and Sky Saxon, are only the tip of this psychedelic iceberg), Phillips' record lays out a vision of countercultural Los Angeles at its most far out.
Previously on Songs for Our City:
Monday: Elliott Smith on Alameda Street
Wednesday: Weezer Endorses Surf Wax America.
Thursday: Tupac Lives and Dies in L.A.
What are some other quintessential psychedelic songs of L.A.?
Let us know in the comments.
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