Mar 5, 2010

All The Lost Souls Welcome You To San Francisco

Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th - Days 20 & 21

So we spent Saturday in SF. Drinking at Vesuvio where the bar manager, Mike, is another Postcarder. Vesuvio is an old Beat hang out, so the 6 hours spent there sitting at the bar, buying drinks from a barman and a friend... it was a little Neal Cassady fantasy day. San Francisco does have a very different vibe from other big American cities I've been in. It's the home of the hippies after all. And of course there is a big gay community. And there are way too many songs about the place. Here are just a few:

Eric Burdon and the Animals - A Warm San Francisco Night
American Music Club - All The Lost Souls Welcome You To San Fransisco
Call Caedmon - Ballad of San Francisco
Vic Damone - Christmas in San Francisco
Arctic Monkeys - Fake Tales of San Francisco
John Lee Hooker - Frisco Blues
Buddy Guy - Hello, San Francisco
Butt Trumpet - I Left My Gun In San Francisco
Tony Bennett - I Left My Heart in San Francisco
Scott McKenzie - If You're Going to San Francsico
Flowerpot Men - Let's Go to San Francisco
Sony Holland - On a San Francisco High
The Animals - San Franciscan Nights
Judy Garland - San Francisco
Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks - San Francisco
Alkaline Trio - San Francisco
Beach Boys - San Francisco
Cordelia's Dad - San Francisco
Olsen Brothers - San Francisco
The Village People - San Francisco (You've Got Me)
Richie Havens, Phoebe Snow - San Francisco Bay Blues
Chris Isaak - San Francisco Days
Cab Calloway - San Francisco Fan
NOFX - San Francisco Fat
Mickey Newbury, Joan Baez - San Francisco Mabel Joy
Jim Nemeth - San Francisco Rose
Marty Robbins - San Francisco Teardrops
Sanford Clark - Streets of San Francisco
American Music Club - The Grand Duchess Of San Fransisco
Global Deejays - The Sound of San Francisco

Plenty of evidence of SF's gay heritage there, so I'm going to pick out a song by American Music Club.

AMC is one of those bands where really only one member counts. In this case it's the songwriter Mark Eitzel who grew up in an American military family overseas but now lives in SF. He seems to epitomise the way San Francisco has become a haven and a home to non-mainstream Americans. Eitzel's gay for a start, though he was for a very long while the lover/carer of a woman who loved to self-medicate. His music is not cheery. Here's an exchange from an interview with the celebrated writer Dave Eggers that sums Eitzel up...

DE: The album you've made is pretty bleak.
ME: The world is bleak.

My fellow Brit Postcarder Girvan is a big fan of Mark Eitzel. So I asked him to share with us why he likes his music so much.

"He is one of the best songwriters in the world. We know this is true
because Rolling Stone said it in 1992. His official bio brings this
up, but not before informing us that he is bald. He has certainly
written many of my favourite songs. He has an excellent turn of
phrase, and the ability to be extremely funny and crushingly
depressing, often in the same song. He also has a voice that makes the
hairs on the back of your neck stand up (although mostly live, he can
hold back a bit on the records). He is very unpredictable - you never
know what mood he's going to be in for a show, but you can always get
something out of it. But mostly I like Mark Eitzel because he has the finest monobrow in rock."

On Sunday night we went to see another show by another screwed up musicians. Wait, hold that because I'm not sure that Evan Dando is a screw up. I just think he doesn't care about career stuff. He played a solo show at a joint called Cafe Du Nord which is in one of SF's gay neighbourhoods. And yes he did sing Big Gay Heart. (Watch him sing it on Top Of The Pops back in the 90s here. I know, I was surprised too.) Dando still looks beautiful, in fact he may be even more beautiful than he was when he was the lead singer in The Lemonheads. He still has a beautiful voice, in fact it may be even more beautiful. For an hour and a half he just stood on stage and fired off one great song after another. He ought to be a huge star, but it seems to be his choice that he isn't. A few years ago he was due to play about 4 shows at the SXSW festival. He played the first and then cancelled all the rest. It seems he likes to party. Well he looks and sounds great on it.

SF is a hell of a town. We didn't give it enough time I know, but one of the things that really freaked me out was just how familiar it looked. And not because of having seen it on TV. But because I've played it in a video game. A couple of years ago I got totally hooked on a game called Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It's a game where you run around, steal cars, shoot people, run wet ops for the CIA, bust up gang bangers, have illegal car races etcetera. The game is set in a mythical US state called San Andreas which has three main cities: Los Santos corresponds to real-life Los Angeles, San Fierro corresponds to real-life San Francisco and Las Venturas corresponds to real-life Las Vegas. They did such a good job that when we were driving around certain parts of SF I kept recognising landmarks.

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