March 22, 2008

Billy Idol - Cradle of Love, L.A. Woman

Cradle of Love is the sort of song that exists because there's a city like Los Angeles. Whether that's a redeeming feature is an exercise left to the reader's discretion.

Then there's L.A. Woman, which is a song of a different era and I can't say whether it's iconic of the city in the time it was written. Though as performed here by Billy Idol, it's near an avatar of a certain sector of L.A. culture of the late 80s and early 90s; all machismo and surf glam, greedy for the unattainable, mourning lost innocence, but not so much that it didn't want to encourage the loss of a little more. Give Billy Idol a darker complexion and hair, and you've a gangbanger, ay mami, maybe a vato, strutting across that stage. Gordon Gekko appropriates South Central.

If the Los Angeles of that era had been a guy, it would only have desired to date Las Vegas. Though only once she'd been found dead of an overdose in his hotel room while he was cheating on her, after it had been discovered that she was from a Minnesota backwater and her birth name was something Edna-like. Then could he long for and mourn her, preferably with a soulful, but grinding, rock ballad. It was that sort of an aesthetic.

If Los Angeles had been a woman then, she would have been one of Captain Kirk's glamorous alien paramours. Too sexy for this world, too odd for the everyday. Her eyes would glitter at you until you were caught in an insect moment, dimly wondering if one of you was supposed to be a predator, and thinking that it mightn't be terrible to be eaten. Literally. Like a biscuit.

It's the city where they make the myths, after all. Stories about the things we're not quite sure we want, but know we want to dream about because we sent them all to live there. Any people who had visions that were a little too odd, large and far off to live anywhere else went to California, and the most unworldly of them went to Los Angeles. They couldn't always make those myths real, but in the body of Lady Angeles they came to life one way, or another.

And from there, we had cities that were always clean, or always fierce and exciting, righteous empires of the past and present, families whose voices were lifted in joy no matter what, archetypically brilliant and foolish coworkers, wise leaders, cowardly enemies, fun roommates and whirlwind nights on the town.

Just it's like that line from the U2 song, "I gave you everything you wanted; it wasn't what you wanted." The symbol never satisfies, the sound of water only heightens thirst.

So I've thought of home, away from home, for more than 5,000 days now. It's indistinct to the point of only leaving the imprint of a myth, but that was always the realest part, the part that becomes obvious when all that's solid falls away and ceases to distract. Not that I know what it's about any more than one person can ever clearly see something as large as a city like that, but better, it feels, without the cloud of those immediate struggles coloring it over. Anyway ...

Long live California. Viva, Los Angeles.

Posted by natasha at March 22, 2008 05:47 PM | Entertainment | Technorati links |

"a vato, strutting..", This is the California I know. Tight, clean and invincible is the image but put the vato on the spot and watch him squirm or pull and gun and kill you. Orale mom, can you put some cash on my books. My celly needs some toothpaste.

Posted by: bumpster at March 23, 2008 08:39 AM

I am born and raised California . Born and raised in Berkeley Ca. to be exact . Been thru the crazy 60's , tear gas and all . Long gone now and happy to be as far away as I am . Still I miss the old crazy times . What's today ? Party , riot , demonstration or a quiet day of High School . Life now gray and sane , but too quiet sometimes . VIVA CALIFORNIA , Viva Berkeley !

Posted by: Henry at March 23, 2008 09:31 AM