By Tony Attwood from an idea by Aaron Galbraith
Farout magazine published a list of songs that Dylan gave in answer to a question about his favourite pieces by other songwriters. I’ve been taking a look at the songs in the list and this is the final piece.
Just one of the four writers Dylan selected to make up his list, had four entries to his name: Warren Zevon. And so his fourth piece makes our last entry in this series – it is ‘Join Me In L.A.’ A list of all the songs Dylan selected is given at the end of this piece, and if you have not read through the articles I would urge you to listen to the songs. My commentaries are just an extra: it is the songs and Dylan’s choice of the songs that is the point.
So here we go.
What really strikes me is about Dylan’s choice of this song is that it is not actually about anything other than the fact that LA is a good place, please come here.
This is quite different from the other songs that Dylan chose for his list, and I wonder if this was just added to make up the dozen that maybe the publisher had asked for. Of course as ever this is just my opinion in listening to the songs, and what I have done in each case is just listened to the piece as I have come to write the article.
And throughout I’ve not been disappointed – except here. Which is strange because one of the other Warren Zevon pieces included in the list (“Lawyers Guns and Money”) has been playing in my house on a regular basis ever since I came to it in this series. I’ve even been known to knock it out myself on the piano a few times, although only late at night after coming home from a dance. (Fortunately, I live in a detached house in the countryside, so no one is going to be disturbed).
Overall, I’d say there are some absolute ultimate masterpieces of songwriting in this selection such as “If you could read my mind”, “Sail Away” and that aching, heart-wrenching piece from John Prine, “Donald and Lydia”.
Maybe therefore, I felt, there is something here I am missing in this final selection, and a little bit of work revealed what at first I thought might be the answer: Warren Zevon died in LA. His body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles – I believe at his request.
Unfortunately, this story however doesn’t work, because the song was recorded for Zevon’s second album in 1975, and he passed away in 2003. So, it would seem this is just another case of my looking for meanings that are not there.
Or perhaps more likely, this is a great song and I am just not getting it. Here are the lyrics…
Well, they say this place is evil That ain't why I stay 'Cause I found something That will never be nothing And I found it in L.A It was midnight in Topanga (in Topanga) I heard the DJ say There's a full moon rising (full moon rising) Join me in L.A Join me in L.A Oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh Oh-oh-oh (wake up, wake up) Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh I was at the Tropicana On a dark and sultry day Had to call someone long distance I said, "Join me in L.A" Join me in L.A
What I would say is that the rest of this little series has been a wonderful excursion into music that I am not particularly familiar with, and it really has been a joy to discover and re-discover the songs and to puzzle out what Dylan perhaps saw in each one to make him include it in the list.
I will, if I may, finish with a repeat of by far and away my favourite song from the collection, knowing of course that you don’t, in any way, have to play it. There is a full list of the rest of the series below, and may I add, if you have an idea for what might make a good series for Untold Dylan do let me know (email firstname.lastname@example.org). Then, if we agree, you can write it for the site. Or if you don’t want to write it, and if you give me permission, if I feel I can make something of the idea, I’ll have a go.
So, to conclude, here’s my rave favourite track from the series, and the full list of articles is below. And if you have been, thank you for staying with the series. If not, well, perhaps I’ll do better next time.
- Death of an Unpopular Poet
- ‘Desperado Under the Eaves’
- Sail Away
- Sam Stone
- He Went to Paris’
- Sundown (Gordon Lightfoot)
- “Burn down the cornfield”
- Donald and Lydia
- ‘Boom Boom Mancini’
- If you could read my mind
- Louisiana 1927