Thursday, April 06, 2006

San Francisco Songs on San Francisco Jukeboxes

I was sitting in a bar in North Beach one night, killing some time before meeting a friend for a show at Bimbo’s, and the place was full of tourists—tourists who could not keep their hands off of the jukebox. Naturally, since the bar is in North Beach, the jukebox is well stocked with all of those songs about San Francisco that I would prefer to get through a few beers without hearing several times. There are a lot of them. And apparently not only do the tourists know all of them, they also love to play them in San Francisco bars as if they need to “get into the spirit.” I lived in New York for four years and I didn’t heard Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” on jukeboxes as many times as in my two San Francisco years I’ve heard Otis Redding’s “(Sitting on the) Dock of the Bay.” Granted, it is an awesome song, but after the third time in the same night, that whistling bit at the end starts to grate on my nerves. I am prone to hyperbole, but I swear I am not exaggerating, I have heard it multiple times in one night on multiple occasions.

Here are five songs that San Francisco bars should banish from their jukeboxes due to outsider abuse*:

  • Scott McKenzie, “If You’re Going to San Francisco”
    Sweet-voiced McKenzie popularized this infectious pop song and the great thing about it is how it essentially chronicles a period and mood in San Francisco with its lyrics. But everybody from Nebraska to Kuala Lumpur knows this song and they are not afraid to play it. Many, many times.

  • Starship, “We Built This City”
    San Francisco-based Jefferson Airplane devolved into Starship and made one of the most banal and nauseating songs EVER. Why did this happen?

  • Tony Bennett, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”
    I blame one particular incident for my disgust with this song’s presence in watering hole music machines. It was my first and only trip to Trad’r Sam in the Richmond. The jukebox there is horrendous, and the clientele loves this song like no other Tony Bennet song in his career history. I almost unplugged the jukebox after the 3rd play that night.

  • Otis Redding, “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay”
    I expect that, if anybody actually ever reads this post, I stand to discredit myself with this particular opinion. But really, I can’t take it after a while. This was one of my favorite songs as a kid growing up in bumblefuck Pennsylvania, though. I love it. I listen to it frequently. But nobody can deny that it is played so often it becomes annoying.

  • Journey, “Lights”
    When the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on the Bay, I usually don’t want to be anywhere but in bed, assuming they really are talking about morning. I hate this song.


Five San Francisco songs that are under appreciated and should pop up more often:

  • The Animals, “San Francisco Night”
    It’s like “House of the Rising Sun” meets “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs. More bars need to have it, and more people need to love it.

  • The Staple Singers, “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay”
    This cover of Otis Redding is seriously under appreciated. It’s just the right combination of sweet and soul. If it were overplayed, I would probably start to hate it, but since I never hear it when I’m out I believe people need to care more about it.

  • Doug Sahm, “Westside Blues”
    Texas native and Bay Area transplant Doug Sahm wrote a number of songs about Bay Area towns and landmarks, but none better capture the feelings of being an outsider and homesickness inevitable for those of us who move here from elsewhere in the country. It is bluesy and goes great with a glass of bourbon. Not that I would do that sort of thing…

  • Red House Painters, “Grace Cathedral Park”
    San Francisco’s saddest resident Mark Kozelek performs frequently in the city. On his most recent tour, fans were delighted that he pulled out “Grace Cathedral Park.” It’s definitely not a happy song, but neither is life in this city all the time. Pour me an Anchor Steam and bring on the sadcore.

  • Mel Torme, “Got the Date on the Golden Gate”
    I find that Mel Torme is under appreciated in general, particularly by people of my generation, and I think it’s time to cover the world in Velvet Fog. I think this song, posing as a song about Manhattan and not San Francisco, should be our city anthem.


* Truth is, though, that I’m a bit of a hypocrite. It is not unlikely for me to use a play to hear any one of those five overplayed songs, depending on number of beers powering my decision making process.

6 comments:

jkoshi said...

Totally rad.

Greg Smith said...

It's odd that Starship was one of the first SF heavy hitters back when really big things were going down, and to think they'd go on to produce one of the worst rock songs of all time.

Lovely post, thank you.

troymccluresf said...

Trad'r Sam could use its own entry of Songs That Need To Be Removed.

Lou Bega's Mambo #5, fittingly, occupies numbers one through five on the list.

ledhead26 said...

mel torme is not under appreciated by anyone who watched night court for years

Anonymous said...

You are missing "The Pleasure of Her Company" (Vic Damone)

chuckhughes2 said...

I can't believe you forgot "San Francisco Girls" by Fever Tree.