Since I will be on my way to San Francisco throughout the Christmas holiday after this semester is (finally) over, I have decided to put together a playlist of songs that mention San Francisco, whether it’s in the chorus, song title, or just one verse.
The songs in the collection are quite varied. There’s anything from blues to punk rock, but isn’t that the fun of mixes anyway?
Click here to listen to the playlist.
Unfortunately, 8tracks wouldn’t allow me to add The Mamas & the Papas version of “San Francisco” since I didn’t have the album title labeled, so here it is for your enjoyment. I personally like it just as much as the original Scott McKenzie version.
Here are the songs included on the playlist:
1. “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”- Scott McKenzie
Besides being an exhausting title, this track can also be noted for the beautiful melody. Once it’s stuck in your head, good luck getting it out. You’re welcome.
2. “Left of the Dial”- The Replacements
Ok, so San Fran is only mentioned once, but it’s such a good line:
“Headed out to San Francisco, definitely not L.A.”
The Replacements certainly had an affinity for humorous lyrics. This band, along with R.E.M., introduced me to the plethora of fantastic music known as the ’80s underground (college radio!).
3. “Judy is a Punk”- Ramones
I honestly had no idea what “they both went down to Frisco, joined the SLA” meant. After looking it up, I discovered that it was referring to the Symbionese Liberation Army- the militant group that kidnapped Patty Hearst in the ’70s. Who says you can’t learn anything productive from punk music?
4. “Back in San Francisco”- Orange Peels
It’s not really a popular song, but it has a laid back feel that (I assume) fits the vibe of San Francisco. Ironically, they will be performing in the city while I’m visiting.
5. “Linden Arden Stole the Headlights”- Van Morrison
Veedon Fleece is an underrated album, and Van Morrison is an underrated artist in general. His songs have always been able to capture a mood or moment perfectly through both lyrics and vocal styles. “Linden Arden Stole the Headlights” is about an Irishman living in San Francisco. It doesn’t exactly end up well.
6. “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”- Tony Bennett
Is it possible to not love Tony Bennett? I’m not a big fan of crooners, but something about his music just makes me all smiles. This song is an official song of the city, so others must feel the same way.
7. “Hello San Francisco”- Buddy Guy
You will probably find yourself nodding to the slow, grooving beat whether you like it or not. Chicago blues would not be the same without Buddy Guy. Also, this may just be the perfect song for someone like me who is visiting San Francisco for the first time because of the following lyrics:
“Hello, San Francisco. Oh, we finally got a chance to meet. I knew someday that I would walk up and down your hilly streets.”
Yep, pretty much perfect.
8. “Deep Kick”- Red Hot Chili Peppers
Believe it or not, this Red Hot Chili Peppers song is about drug use. Who would have thought! The beginning is quite odd, and if you’d like to get on to the headbanging, skip to 1:40. Flea does some strange singing near the end. Let’s all be happy he’s an excellent bassist.
9. “Fake Tales of San Francisco”- Arctic Monkeys
Always writing songs with a wink, the Arctic Monkeys poke fun at an imaginary British band trying too hard to relate to American culture.
10. “Frisco Blues”- John Lee Hooker
If Ray Charles and the blues were mixed together, it would probably sound very similar to this. I love the female backing vocals as well .No one has ever sounded quite like him. Maybe there are 20 songs about San Francisco that he made, but I wouldn’t know since he made over 100 albums!
11. “Grace Cathedral Hill”- The Decemberists
It’s a fairly simple acoustic song with baroque leanings. Colin Meloy’s voice is very unique, and allows the song to stand out a bit more. Just don’t listen to it if you’re sleepy (unless you are wanting to go to sleep).
12. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”- Otis Redding
I saved the best for last. This song paints a picture of the bay so beautifully. I can’t really even describe why it’s so good, because it really isn’t a complex song. It’s most likely because Otis Redding’s voice exudes soulfulness. He could sing about a sandwich and make it emotional.
If anyone knows of some other fine tunes about San Francisco, let me know!