San Diego’s Burning: Songs about Fire

So…ahem. In the absence of good taste I thought I’d go through my catalog and see what I could find as far as songs that are about fire. More specifically, California Fires. Its just a part of this SoCal punk culture. Of course this selection will be mostly punk songs, so if you think of anything else please feel to comment.

First I’d like to start with a favorite of mine by Dead Kennedys. Their song “Forest Fire” is the epitome of their black satire. Here are the lyrics:

No junk food, just earthly goods
I ate weird berries in the woods
Now I’m seeing colors, I’m getting higher
I think I’ll start a forest fire

There’s a forest fire climbin the hill
Burning wealthy California homes
Better run run run run run run
From the fire

But some of us stay and watch
And we think of your insurance costs
And we laugh laugh laugh laugh laugh laugh
At your lives

Windows covered with bars
Security guards
Is that a house or a fortress?
Against the rest of the world

Windows covered with bars
Security guards
Is that a house or a prison
How you gonna get out?

Electric bull and your tennis courts
Pink sports cars and your boats
Getting fried fried fried fried fried fried
By the fire

Windows covered with bars
Floodlights for the yard
It’s a pleasure to watch you
Watch it all melt

But hey!
What about the cocaine
Stockpiled in the basement
Be a hero and save it
You know you’re gonna need it

Where’s your brand new pretty wife
She might still be inside
Either save her or your cocaine from the fire

But the gates and doors are locked
‘Cause the burglar alarms went off
Ever wonder why we laugh laugh
At your lives

Windows covered with bars
Fences spiked with barbed wire
Never looked so helpless
Engulfed in flames

Cameras watchin’ the walls
Don’t forget the dogs
Now you’re trapped in your prison
How you gonna get out

See the gerbil
Run run run run run run run run run
run run run run run run run run run
run run run run run run run run run
From the fire

Of course there is a human toll to all this Santa Ana fueled inferno so don’t take this as some insensitive asshole commenting on human tragedy – instead its a look at the situation as absurd. As a community we can pull together during disasters but we can’t agree on insipid minutiae. Pervasive as prejudice, homophobia, xenophobia and classism is we forget that we’re all part of this comedy. It takes death and destruction for people to actually look up from their computer screens (including me) and take stock of what they are fortunate enough to have. Four walls, a roof, food, water, love from family. No IED’s, no sectarian violence, no interim government of occupiers building imperialist stronghold in our region. No. Our luck is our location.

Heres another about a burning city by Pennywise (Unknown Road)

“City Is Burning”

society reflects tonight
an ugly mirror showing an animal instinct
a twisted way to wrong a right
how many dead before the sun comes arising
lock your doors
and close your eyes
sit back and watch TV
while the problem grows outside
lock your doors
and shut off your mind
while you are safe inside
the city is burning tonight
blinding lights burn in the sky
a mass of shadows
darkness usually hides
animals out of their cage (who will)
burn their own environment
without any shame
so your guess is as good as mine
will any good come out of this
we’ll know in time
until that time let’s not regress (let’s learn)
our lessons before there’s another uprising

So that song is a bit more esoteric. More about the riots from the early 90’s but nevertheless, an important song about a burning city. Greg Graffin has always had a lot more to say than he could fit cleverly into a 4 on the floor punk song yet he’s always been able to deliver, in that weird sort of Irish folk sing-story way of his on a number of socio-political issues. He is in best form though when he is talking about California. After the early 90s with the four raddest albums (Suffer, No Control, Against The Grain, Generator), Bad Religion got sort of lame, doing tours with Pearl Jam and having Eddie Vedder sing on Recipe For Hate. BUT they came back in the new century focused and pissed at the continued polarization of our country cause of the Bush administration. This song, which is about the fire storm of 03 is poignant.

“Los Angeles Is Burning”

Somewhere high in the desert near a curtain of a blue
St. Anne’s skirts are billowing
But down here in the city of the lime lights
The fans of santa ana are withering
And you can’t deny that living is easy
If you never look behind the scenery
It’s showtime for dry climes
And bedlam is dreaming of rain

When the hills of los angeles are burning
Palm trees are candles in the murder wind
So many lives are on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And los angeles is burning

This is not a test
Of the emergency broadcast system
Where malibu fires and radio towers
Conspire to dance again
And I cannot believe the media Mecca
They’re only trying to peddle reality,
Catch it on prime time, story at nine
The whole world is going insane

When the hills of los angeles are burning
Palm trees are candles in the murder wind
So many lives are on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And los angeles is burning

A placard reads
“the end of days”
Jacaranda boughs are bending in the haze

More a question than a curse
How could hell be any worse?

The flames are stunning
The cameras running
So take warning

When the hills of los angeles are burnin
Palm trees are candles in the murder wind
So many lives are on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And los angeles is burning

Smoke or Fire, who are originally from Boston, transplanted to Richmond,VA wrote a song about our great golden state up in flames.

Wake up and grab your bags.
California’s burning to the ground.
Wake up and grab your things.
You and I are leaving Los Angeles.

They’ll try to hold you down, they’ll try to pull me down,
I haven’t seen your face in years.
Alone and walking down, the ashes cover ground
along La Cienaga.

This time we’re gonna say those words,
and cut the ropes that are wrapped around our necks.
This time we’re gonna take control and start over.
We’re leaving Los Angeles.

Wake up and grab your bags.
California’s burning to the ground.
Wake up and grab your things.
You and I are leaving Los Angeles.

Think of me when I’m gone, this Fall I’m leaving town.
When will I see your face again?
Alone and walking down, the ashes cover ground
along La Cienaga.

Hey, burn it down, burn it down.
Hey, burn it down, burn it down.

This time we’re gonna say those words,
and cut the ropes that are wrapped around our necks.
This time we’re gonna take control and start over.
We’re leaving Los Angeles.

Wake up and grab your bags.
California’s burning to the ground.
Wake up and grab your things.
You and I are leaving Los Angeles.

Hey, burn it down, burn it down.

Maybe it is some sort of reckoning. Maybe all this predisposition to lyrics about fire is just part of the Modern Adventure. Whatever it is, it sure is entertaining. We must stay informed. Media will dictate how future people will regard us and the time we used to influence some sort of change here. During this time. If you’ve even read this far you should be going out and giving your hand to someone. Our capacity for compassion is what makes America a place worth keeping from the corporations, extremism and hatred.

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4 thoughts on “San Diego’s Burning: Songs about Fire

  1. Perhaps most fitting of all: “San Diego’s Burning,” by SD’s own Agent 51:

    I’m a hard working man, yeah I’m down on my luck

    With a broom and a dustpan, just tryin’ to raise a buck

    It’s not the fact that I don’t wanna work

    I’m just not gonna take it anymore

    Spillin’ my guts out every night

    For a bunch of blank stares just looking for a fight

    It’s not that the fact that I don’t wanna work

    But we’re screamin’ for change once again.

    Voices cry out deep in the night

    The streets are empty again

    But what’s the explanation for just putting up a fight

    When San Diego’s burning within.

    Yeah, nobody here wants to do it

    Unless somebody else does it first

    Take a look around, watch it burn into the ground

    The condition’s gone from bad to worse

    Time is running out, and the future’s full of doubt

    Are the good times really over? We can make the good times now

    A neurotic, self conscious, superficial wasteland

    Is what I would call my town

    I try to think back to other times

    I try to remember when

    What’s the explanation for just putting up a fight

    When everybody’s trying to win

    Burn it down to the ground

  2. Actually it’s “California’s Burning” to be exact Shaners. 🙂
    Go SD. Glad you’re safe. We are too and so’s our casa.

    California’s Burning by Augustana

    “California’s burning, burning, burning to the ground…
    and my head is turning, turning, turning round and round…
    alie’s stomach’s churning, churning, like a storm today…
    and your mother’s crying, crying, closing up the safe…

    and I’m here, wondering where the sun has gone…
    driving through a Midwest storm,
    asking why there’s no one home…

    Encinitas likes to miss me, like nobody’s child..
    and my eyes like rainy Tuesdays, like to watch you smile…

    and I’m here, wondering where the sun has gone…
    driving through a Midwest storm,
    asking why there’s no one home…

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