Music News & Reviews

4 songs about San Luis Obispo

Clockwise from top left, Quiet Life, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Scissor Sisters and Ted Wulfers.
Clockwise from top left, Quiet Life, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Scissor Sisters and Ted Wulfers. Tribune file, Associated Press and courtesy photos

Randy Newman loves L.A. Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. And “Weird Al” Yankovic thinks you should check out the men’s room at the Madonna Inn.

At least, that’s what he recommends in “Take Me Down,” an ode to his former stomping grounds and one of a handful of songs written about San Luis Obispo over the years.

Though these SLO-centric songs may not be as well known as those written about bigger cities, you have to admit, any songs celebrating the happiest city in America are worth a listen.

So check out these four songs about San Luis Obispo.

Ted Wulfers, “San Luis Obispo (Take It SLO)”

As a traveling musician, Chicagoan Ted Wulfers has seen a lot of American cities. But only one has inspired him to write a song about it.

His tune “San Luis Obispo (Take It SLO)” features a Jimmy Buffet vibe with lyrics that talk of partying on Higuera Street.

“I wrote the song, just kind of in my head, driving down to L.A. from a show (in San Luis Obispo),” he told The Tribune in 2009. “I play in so many different towns — I’m just kind of always wandering. But I just wanted to document the good times of the town and to give a gift to all the good people there.”

Wulfers included an updated version of the song on his latest album, “You Are Here,” and shot the music video for it — featuring plenty of classic SLO-centric scenery — in March 2015.

“Weird Al” Yankovic, “Take Me Down”

Cal Poly alum “Weird Al” Yankovic pays homage to his former home in this rare original song.

“It talks about Morro Rock, Pismo Beach, the bathrooms at the Madonna Inn and how all the stores closed at 5 p.m.,” he told The Tribune in 2003.

Yankovic was no doubt inspired by his time in San Luis Obispo as a Cal Poly student when he sang, “Where the grass is green and the air is so clean that when the wind is right, you can even smell the cows.”

Quiet Life, “San Luis Obispo”

In their song “San Luis Obispo,” the Portland, Oregon-based folk-rock band Quiet Life celebrates its favorite California city.

Lead singer/guitarist Sean Spellman, who grew up on the East Coast, discovered San Luis Obispo several years ago on a weeklong trip to California and “fell in love with it,” he told The Tribune in 2013. A month later, he and his then-girlfriend moved to San Luis Obispo; he then persuaded his bandmates to join him. They shared a two-bedroom house on Pismo Street for about a year.

The music video, shot in May 2012, finds Spellman and his bandmates driving through downtown San Luis Obispo, making music in Mitchell Park and watching the waves in Pismo Beach. (And, yes, one of them is munching a burrito from local eatery Tonita’s Mexican Food.)

Scissor Sisters, “San Luis Obispo”

Although the Scissor Sisters hail from New York City, the progressive glam pop group has found a second home on the West Coast, and San Luis Obispo is a city that has clearly captured the band members’ hearts.

The 2012 song “San Luis Obispo” might sound like an upbeat and jangly tune that would be a perfect fit for some kind of hybrid vehicle commercial, but a closer inspection of the lyrics reveals a story in which lead singer Jake Shears has been abandoned on the side of the road “Between the bright lights of Los Angeles and the tawdry nights of San Jose.” Shears finds a party in the streets of San Luis Obispo but can’t help wondering “if happiness is just a phase.”

The song is capped off with a tropical piano solo before Shears and the Scissor Sisters make one more run through an infectious chorus that makes “San Luis Obispo” a welcome addition to a mixtape for a car ride up the coast. Despite some serious introspection in the lyrics, Scissor Sisters’ playful style shines through above all else in this fun coastal anthem.

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Have you heard any other songs about San Luis Obispo? Let us know in the comments.

Tribune staffers Patrick S. Pemberton, Sarah Linn and Chris Dobstaff contributed to this story.

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