January 28, 2011

“Left My Heart In San Francisco” mix

Five years ago I moved out of the San Francisco Bay Area for the snowy, crisp mountains of Colorado. I absolutely love my adopted home, our vibrant music scene, and the fresh air here, but no foolin’ I do often long for my hometown hills.

Over the holidays I went to San Francisco for a week to stay at the Noe Valley apartment of friends who were out of town and graciously let me “housesit.” It was a part of town I had never stayed in before. When I first let myself into their empty place on Christmas evening, and walked out to their deck, I took in a sharp breath and smiled.

The first picture below is the desktop image I’ve had on my computer for the last two years, to remind me of my homeland:


…then these two are photos I took on Christmas from the deck where I was staying:

Christmas-NY 2010 076

Christmas-NY 2010 049

Same hill, same view as the one I’d been looking at daily for the last two years. It’s smile-inducing moments of kismet like that which reassure me no matter how far I roam from Pacific coast, it will keep finding me.

It finds me lately in the music that celebrates the Bay Area; I started this mix to accompany my recent trip, finishing it up after that view happened on into my life. These are songs with references to all the favorite, special parts of California that helped catalyze bits of me – loosely centered around San Francisco, San Jose, and places you can (and I did) drive to in an afternoon with some friends and a picnic basket.

Thirty songs for home.


San Francisco Bay Blues (Lost Tapes Vol 14) – John Lennon
Starting this mix just like my New York one, with John just screwing around on his guitar and somehow still sounding pretty perfect.

16th And Valencia Roxy Music – Devendra Banhart
Right on the edge of the Mission District, by the hundred-year-old artsy Roxie Theater, Devendra is taking us out to find our lovers tonight. Oh, and they’re gonna be riding six white horses and wearing pressed blue jeans, he suggests. But hey, this is SF. Go with it.

Piazza, New York Catcher – Belle & Sebastian
Not at all about NYC, but the story of a love affair set throughout the city of San Francisco, hanging about the stadium where the Giants and Mets will play, the Tenderloin, borrowed bedrooms virginal and spare. Meet you at the statue in an hour.

California On My Mind – Wild Light
Something a reader recommended for this mix, this is absolutely one of my favorite new songs, even if the core songwriting lyric is a repeated refrain of “fuck today, fuck San Francisco, fuck California” with a “…fuck Oakland” thrown in later for good measure. The rousing harmonica and the charmingly awkward vocals are enough to win me, and I’m sure we’ve done enough jerky things to deserve a little rancor.

San Jose – Joe Purdy
I never knew this song when I lived in San Jose (my address was always a San Jose one except for when I was in college, when it moved over a few zip codes) but it sounds like a warm, Ray LaMontagne-style blues & organ song that I’ve just always known.

Roots Radical – Rancid
Took the 60 bus out of downtown Campbell, Ben Zanotto he was on there, he was waiting for me.” Campbell’s border is about a mile from the edge of my high school, and Rancid had origins at the neighboring high school. I totally took the 60 bus to Great America amusement park, and I also wonder if Ben Zanotto’s dad was the same guy who started the neat Zanotto’s grocery markets in town, like a prototype Trader Joe’s.

(Wake Me Up) In San Francisco – The Welcome Matt
I fittingly first heard this on a sampler from the epic KFOG radio station, and it always makes me smile, especially if I can listen to it as the song suggests, while driving in over the Bay Bridge, or landing in SFO on a big jet plane. This song namechecks so many great places, as it talks about how going home never gets old.

San Francisco – Brett Dennen
Brett is from the Central California town of Oakdale, between Escalon and Jamestown on 108, a route I have driven often enough to see why he pictures himself buying a navy peacoat and moving to SF. This is such a charming love letter to the city, we’ll allow him to be on this mix even though he is an Oakland A’s fan: “Over in the Mission it’s always a sunny day / there’s a real good baseball town but my team is across the Bay.”

Hail Mary – Pomplamoose
Not only is this husband-wife duo from Corte Madera (north of SF), but this catchy pop tune sings of driving down to San Jose at ninety miles per hour, has clattery, stick-in-your-head percussion, and their band name is modeled after the French word for grapefruit. What’s not to like?

Santa Clara – The National
Santa Clara is where I went to college and then worked for five years, and where my grandma still lives in the same house on Brannan Place that she’s been in for 50 years — so I was pretty excited to find this National b-side. It is gorgeous by any standards, even aside from how it hits the home parts of my heart.

Snow In San Anselmo – Van Morrison
Van gets a bit meandering here on this seven+ minute tune, but it feels appropriate for the kind of cold night he describes in this small town in Marin County, across the Golden Gate from SF. “The classic music station plays soft and low . . . and the pancake house is always open 24 hours a day / my waitress said it was coming down, said it hadn’t happened in over thirty years.” I remember snow maybe once in all my years in the Bay Area, and this song is mighty evocative.

San Geronimo – Red House Painters
Then just along the boulevard from San Anselmo is the town of San Geronimo, where Kozelak sings of “somewhere up fifteen miles sifting through crackling vinyl / lost memories of my youth are coming into view… weekend in San Geronimo, love how the starlit skies show.” Red House Painters were from San Francisco, so they get double point placement on this mix for that. They know the landscape well, and I could have picked any number of their tunes but this one is special.

California, Pt. 2 – Mason Jennings
Possibly my favorite of all Mason Jennings songs, about packing a box of books and a guitar into the back of a pickup and moving to CA — not Los Angeles (“I’m staying far away from there”) but moving “north of San Francisco into the cleaner air / I’m gonna get a little land with the money I’ve saved, buy a little house that I can work on / where the next nearest neighbor lives miles away, I’ll never have to mow the lawn. Right on.” Sounds absolutely perfect to me.

El Caminos In The West – Grandaddy
Jason Lytle is from Modesto, California, and so even though I realize this song may well be about the stylin’ car the El Camino, I prefer to imagine it as singing about the El Camino Real, the King’s Highway that stretches the length of the state and used to bind together all the mission churches in the state’s earliest days.

Palo Alto – Radiohead
With bleeps and bloops fitting the technological mecca this “city of the future” has become (from Hewlett Packard to Facebook) Radiohead sings an ode to Palo Alto with a pervasive feeling of alienation. But I mean, seriously, Radiohead wrote a song about them. They can’t complain.

Oakland on a Rainy Day – Jake Troth
This Bay Area songwriter writes great, humble, satisfying songs and this is no exception. There’s nearly nothing I love more than Oakland (or San Francisco, or San Jose, or Santa Cruz) on a rainy day. When I was in SF over the holidays, it poured on Tuesday night and I just opened the windows and sat in the dark and listened and smelled that rain smell. We don’t get that in Colorado much.

27th Ave Shuffle – Foxboro Hot Tubs
A 2008 side project of seminal Berkeley band Green Day, this song rocks us down 27th Avenue (which bisects Golden Gate Park and runs on up through the Richmond) and I think references jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge which of course is something we do not recommend. But this song, yes.

Rendezvous Potrero Hill – Architecture in Helsinki
Let’s pause for a little autumnal instrumental interlude dedicated to this San Francisco neighborhood, home to both Anchor Steam Brewery and the Mythbusters folks, so you know it has to be good.

Grace Cathedral Hill – The Decemberists
A new year’s day spent in this, one of SF’s most gorgeous cathedrals, lighting little white candles and then heading north to the Hyde Street Pier — “And the world may be long for you, but it’ll never belong to you / but on a motorbike when all the city lights blind your eyes tonight, are you feeling better now?” Yup.

Highway 101 – Social Distortion
One of our most maddening or beautiful highways, depending on which stretch of it you find yourself on, and what time to day. I picked this song over Albert Hammond Jr’s “Back To The 101″ because everyone knows that only Southern Californians add the “the.”

Moon Over Marin – Dead Kennedys
One of San Francisco’s most famous punk bands sing about pollution in the North Bay, decades before the Cosco Busan spill. The band was formed after guitarist East Bay Ray saw a punk/ska show at San Francisco’s legendary Mabuhay Gardens, met Jello Biafra and the rest of the band, and yelled their way into our city’s history.

Got To Have It – Soul President
From the Numero Group’s marvelous Eccentric Soul re-release series, this steel drum-peppered track was originally put out on a tiny San Francisco imprint Uptight Records in the ’60s. There’s all kind of painfully funky shoutouts here to the Haight Ashbury, laced liberally with “unh!”s. Being this cool hurts.

The Chapter of Your Life Entitled San Francisco – The Lucksmiths
This Australian band laments a friend who has moved off to our temperate Bay Area climes, and won’t even write postcards home during the long summer, so taken is she with the charms of the city by the Bay. It happens.

Santa Cruz (You’re Not That Far) – The Thrills
One thing I probably miss the most here in the landlocked square I now call home is the inability to pack up the car with a few essentials and drive south over Highway 17 to Santa Cruz, the beachtown that was once so close and so appreciated. The Thrills are from nowhere near California (Dublin, actually) but the first two songs on their 2002 album So Much For The City talk about California coastal towns so convincingly, you’d think they were from here too.

Big Dipper – Cracker
David Lowery’s earlier band Camper Van Beethoven was centered in Santa Cruz, and this melancholy song compares life to entering the long tunnel and the curve leading into the iconic Big Dipper, the wooden rollercoaster at the Beach Boardwalk (from the top you can “see Monterey, or think about San Jose”). I know it well. Lowery also sings of sitting on the Cafe Zinho steps, an ’80s landmark which was destroyed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and watching all the world go by.

San Andreas Fault – Natalie Merchant
Speaking of destruction caused by the ’89 quake, this fault is the meeting of the plates that caused it. I was ten and I was begrudgingly cleaning my room so that I could join the rest of my family in watching the World Series Game 3 that was starting, Giants vs A’s in a cross-the-Bay pairing. This video of the baseball coverage that night makes me smile to see old Candlestick full, but remembering how sunny that day was makes my stomach hurt.

San Francisco Blues – Stephen Fretwell
I’ve loved Fretwell since I first heard the devastatingly perfect “Emily,” and even moreso when he put this song on his 2007 album Man On The Roof. Originally from Manchester, England, he joins a long line of Brits who have fallen in love with the city.

California Brown and Blue – Denison Witmer
Everything about this song cuts me, we’ll just leave it at that. “Weightless in the arms of the Golden Gate… I leave before we find out what it means.”

Sausalito - Conor Oberst
Conor pens a rollicking number with deceptively wrenching lyrics set in the gorgeous seaside town of Sausalito, which I remember a specific gorgeous March day spent walking around in after taking the ferry up from SF. “Hair blowing in the hot wind, time hanging from a clothespin…” He thinks we should move to a houseboat and let the ocean rock us back and forth to sleep. Yes.

(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay (ripped from vinyl) – Otis Redding
Perhaps one of the most famous songs written in and about our Bay (other than, you know, Journey), Otis penned this one night on a houseboat docked in that same Sausalito, while he was in town to play San Francisco’s famous Fillmore. Everything about that sentence, I love.


I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry or smile widely (sometimes at the same time) while making this mix.

[help on this mix from several friends from the Bay Area, including pal/SF resident/musician Matt Nathanson, Ken Shipley of Numero Group and my high school, Rand Foster of Long Beach’s epic Fingerprints Record Store and neighboring rival high school,and fellow SF blogger Adrian who also rocked some of the best suggestions on the Stomp/Clap Mix. Y’all do your city proud.]


  • So excited to sit down and listen to this mix while dreaming of being back in San Francisco. While I was only lucky enough to spend one day there (3 years ago), I fell in love. And now this Jersey Girl would love to make SF her new home. Thanks!

    Nicole — February 2, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

  • Thanks for posting! This Modesto girl will always love “The City.” Go Giants!

    Susanna — February 2, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

  • I’m a big fan of the Wild Light song, but other than that and the Otis Redding track (of course), I’m not familiar with many of the others. Thanks for sharing your beautiful memories and photos – I look forward to giving them all a closer listen!

    AngelHeadedHipster — February 2, 2011 @ 8:05 pm

  • thanks john! yeah, i tried real hard to leave off all the first ones i thought of :) to find all the other ones. so, no tony bennett, no chris isaak san francisco days, no left my heart in san jose…
    have fun!

    browneheather — February 2, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

  • Incredible mix – looking forward to hearing it, downloading now. That New York one also looks amazing but is no longer available – any chance you could re-post it?

    Thanks for putting this together!

    Gironin — February 2, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

  • and “Santa Cruz” by Pearl Jam…oh yeah, you don’t like them anymore

    gatorjf — February 2, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

  • Gironin, I just re-upped the NYC mix: http://www.fuelfriendsmp3.com/listenup/NYC%20Mix.zip

    browneheather — February 2, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

  • May I humbly recommend “Ballad of San Francisco” by Caedmon’s Call as a possible addendum to the mix? Or at least as a b-side?
    Also, if I was stranded on a desert island and could only take ONE music blog with me, it would be this one.

    David — February 2, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

  • david, that’s a solid contender there. i’ll grant it b-side status :)

    and thanks for the kind words. i’d take you all too.

    browneheather — February 2, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

  • I love this. I love it. In my head I put songs together by location all the time, so this just adds fuel. I’m sure you thought of ‘Come Back from San Francisco’, which was one of those songs I could not get enough of a few years ago. Maybe too obvious, but I love it. Thanks for all these!

    Doug Bost — February 2, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

  • Oh.my.heart!

    Ah, so many memories! My mom is from Santa Cruz and most of my family vacations were there. I love that town and San Francisco. You’re right, nothing beats those rainy days.

    Sheila — February 2, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

  • I’d suggest the track “San Francisco” by Steve Tannen of The Weepies.

    Pat — February 2, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

  • Thank you so much!
    I love you music mixes, and your blog.
    Listening now to your SF mix, and enjoying, as always :-)

    Eliana — February 2, 2011 @ 11:08 pm

  • I was looking down the list thinking how many of the songs I already love, and wishing my hometown had produced such musical goodness, when I found the Stephen Fretwell track. He’s actually from Scunthorpe, UK (not Manchester) which, though not my home town, is where I did my growing up. I went to the same college as him. Ah, sweet coincidence.
    Thanks for the mix tape.

    Dave — February 3, 2011 @ 2:32 am

  • Thanks for your thoughtful mix. Many of these tunes are old friends and I look forward meeting the new ones.

    I’ll add “Grace Cathedral Park” by the Red House Painters as a hidden track.

    George — February 3, 2011 @ 8:04 am

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nolan Caudill, Matt Morosky. Matt Morosky said: RT @nolancaudill: Very nice San Francisco-inspired mixtape http://www.fuelfriendsblog.com/2011/01/28/left-my-heart-in-san-francisco-mix/ [...]

    Tweets that mention Very nice San Francisco-inspired mixtape -- Topsy.com — February 3, 2011 @ 8:40 am

  • Your thematic mix-tapes are always so considered and inspired. “San Francisco” by Hello Saferide is certainly another unabashed love letter to that lovely city. It also has one of the best hit the road lines ever:

    “And it’s time to call in sick and pack your bags and bring the toothbrush / Withdraw from that savings account. What’s savings for? Time doesn’t wait.”

    Moxie — February 3, 2011 @ 10:20 am

  • What a great song Big Dipper is. And I never knew it was a rollercoaster. Now it’s even better. Thanks, Heather.

    Paul — February 3, 2011 @ 10:37 am

  • I listened to that Brett Dennen song a few weeks after I moved back from Oakland and it definitely hit a nerve, such a great description of San Francisco. I miss it a lot sometimes.

    Dan — February 3, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

  • Awesome mix! “Shoreline” by Creede Williams is bittersweet couplet for San Fran that should be heard.

    “In the San Francisco, I didn’t like you. You were above me, I saw right through you….and in the morning Russian Hill and the Golden Gate meet with me out in the sea.”

    Bonnie — February 3, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

  • “Come Back to San Francisco” by the Magnetic Fields!


    “Should pretty boys and disco/distract you from your novel/Remember I’m awful in love with you.”

    Too true.

    emil — February 3, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

  • Nice mix! Good effort!

    Adrian — February 3, 2011 @ 7:02 pm

  • This is one of the most joyous musical experiences that I’ve had in a long time. I’ve lived in Northern California for all but two years of my life (although those two years were spent in the equally musically inspired town of Olympia, Washington), but it was only three years ago that I moved to the Bay Area. It’s become a wonderfully meaningful place for me, and these songs (none of which I’ve heard before) vividly illustrate what I love.

    In short (too late), I can’t thank you enough for this mix. It’s warm, both energetic and fun at certain points and pensive and restrained at others. It’s perfect. Thank you for putting it together. (Although I will add that I hope to move to Colorado myself at some point over the next few years. If you’re ever tempted to compile a mix in honor of your new home, I’d probably devour it with an equal amount of gusto.)

    P.S. Go A’s. ;-)

    Wes — February 4, 2011 @ 12:50 am

  • Reading this in Switzerland right now and have to admit I’m getting a bit homesick for the Bay!! Thanks for the great mix!

    Sarah — February 4, 2011 @ 8:15 am

  • I’ve been lurking on your blog for some time and wanted to say thank you for this mix (and for turning me on to many other artists over the last couple of years).

    One band that’s neither from the bay area nor really sings about it, but always makes me think of it, is OX, the Canadian band. They have a song called El Camino which is really about a car, but something in their gritty vocals and instrumentation reminds me of a hot day along the highway outside of SF.

    (If you’re the one who posted about OX, my apologies for sending you back to something you already know about!)

    pvz — February 4, 2011 @ 9:16 am

  • Beautiful pictures !
    I’m glad you put Devendra Banhart’s song, I like his music a lot ;D

    BlackBeauty8989 — February 4, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

  • Two tunes that would’ve looked nice on this list:

    Grace Cathedral Park by Red House Painters and The Chapter In Your Life Entitled San Francisco by The Lucksmiths.

    Eightiesologist — February 5, 2011 @ 10:06 am

  • Some great stuff…I’m from New Jersey which is just like the Bay Area, but the complete opposite.
    It’s been a long time since I’ve been there…remember one trip up and down the Bay Area and north to the Redwoods, and south to Monterey and a spectacular park south of Carmel (Point Lobos–God it was gorgeous…). This mix is a good reminder to go back soon–and maybe stay awhile.

    Rob — February 5, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

  • a playlist after my own heart! reminds me of all my trips out to san fran.

    lainey — February 6, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

  • Great playlist — could you post the full size version of the desktop SF pic? Would love to use it myself.

    Jeff — February 7, 2011 @ 9:26 am

  • Santa Cruz by Eddie Vedder…..oh, wait………………

    Mark — February 7, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

  • Wow, great mix! And “Big Dipper” is one of my favorites. One nitpick, though: the roller coaster at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is the *Giant* Dipper, not the Big Dipper.

    Will — February 8, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  • One of the greatest (and unfortunately most expensive) cities in the world. Love SF.

    Forbin — February 9, 2011 @ 12:12 am

  • I’m been following your blog on and off for years, always amused by the fact I took the opposite path, from Boulder to the South Bay where I now live. I’m downloading now and can’t wait to hear the mix.

    I’m not sure if it is left off as too obvious or not SF-y enough of just for lack of space, but The Beach Boys “California Saga” always makes me tear up with the beauty of the coast and the music.

    'mouse — February 10, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

  • “Big Dipper” is one of the best Cracker songs, hands down.

    Justin — February 12, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

  • also, Will, thanks for the note on the real name of the roller coaster! you just, like, shattered all the memories i thought i had. we always called it the big dipper – laziness i guess, induced by too many funnel cakes ;) and a stop at Marianne’s after.

    browneheather — February 14, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

  • [...] am Fuel, You are Friends compiled an impressive San Francisco-themed playlist. You know what I’ve learned over the years? People who live in San Francisco LOVE IT when you [...]

    Your Saturday Antivirals | Pop Culture Has AIDS — February 27, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

  • [...] fish, and entire stores dedicated to herbal tea.  When you stay here, you’re staying in the heart of San Francisco—with so much to see you won’t want to waste a moment, so maximize your time in a hotel that [...]

    A Stay at the Hotel des Artes on a San Francisco Vacation — May 1, 2011 @ 8:45 am

  • [...] in The West Wing – especially the episode when it is her first day as Chief of Staff 5. The San Francisco mix from Fuel Friends – listening to it when driving 75 on the interstate while leaving Nebraska and driving into Wyoming [...]

    required writing — August 10, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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