Songs About Los Angeles: “Cruisin’ (Lucy and Ramona and Sunset Sam)” by Michael Nesmith

April 24, 2009 at 10:00 am in Entertainment, Music

Well, if you thought my previous contribution to this series was obscure, check what I’ve got for you today. Hey hey it’s the Monkee otherwise known as Michael Nesmith, who it turns out in 1979 wrote not only a most excellently whacky song about Los Angeles, but also as a pioneer of the music video medium* produced a pre-MTV clip for “Cruisin’ (Lucy and Ramona and Sunset Sam)” filmed at locations around Hollywood that like a time capsule in the shape of a mirrored roller-disco ball captures our town in all its glitzy late-’70s glory as a melting pot filled to the brim with silly sunglasses, strange fashions, weird characters, funkadelic sleazery, and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese:

Lucy and Ramona cruisin’ thru the jungles of L.A.
Hopin’ to promote a dream somewhere along the way.
Rollin’ thru the streets looking for a disco,
Passin’ up the treats from a kid named Cisco
Trying to make connections
With their blemish free complexions
And just as fate would have it
They ended up with Sunset Sam.

After the Monkees broke up 1969, Nesmith did some stuff for RCA Records, scoring a Top-40 hit with “Joanne” in 1970. He followed that with less successful endeavors and eventually left the label to form Pacific Arts, a multimedia company specializing in commercials, film, music and videos.

In 1979 he released the album “Infinite Rider On The Big Dogma,” a departure from the country-rock flavor for which he’d become known.  “Infinite Rider” had rock, a bit of soul, and even some near-rap infused funk, as evidenced on “Cruisin’,” better known as the “Lucy And Ramona” song.  While “Cruisin’” didn’t crack the charts, it didn’t hurt that the video Nesmith created for the single got plenty of exposure on cable movie channels back in those heady days when those burgeoning networks filled the blanks between feature films with videos.

The rest is history (and one of my favoritist videos EVAR!). Funk it up Nez:

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A bit more info and complete lyrics after the jump.

“Cruisin’” got a belated bump a couple years later when Nesmith produced the full-length home video “Elephant Parts,” which featured several music videos interspersed with short comedy sketches and clips (and for which he won a Grammy for the first video ever so honored in 1981).

Cruisin’ (Lucy and Ramona and Sunset Sam)
Michael Nesmith

Lucy and Ramona cruisin’ thru the jungles of L.A.
Hopin’ to promote a dream somewhere along the way.
Rollin’ thru the streets looking for a disco,
Passin’ up the treats from a kid named Cisco
Trying to make connections
With their blemish free complexions
And just as fate would have it
They ended up with Sunset Sam.

Sam was sellin’ watches from a suitcase on a TV tray
And Lucy and Ramona were tryin’ to figure out if he was gay
The three of them were standing staring at each other
When the light behind their eyes blew each other’s cover
The ancient code was branded.
And each of them was handed
A ticket to their kingdom
‘Cause they saw their brother Sunset Sam.

Lucy and Ramona and Sunset Sam
People on the streets tryin’ to find a plan
People on the streets lookin’ for the land
Lucy and Ramona and their brother Sunset Sam

Lucy was from Compton and she met Ramona at the zoo.
Ramona was from Brooklyn but she left when she was twenty-two.
Sam was a native of the Arizona Desert;
But he split when he was slated for some governmental make-work.
Their differences subsided when the common bond was sighted
They were all from the same place
That made the famous Sunset Sam

Lucy and Ramona and Sunset Sam
People on the streets tryin’ to find a plan
People on the streets lookin’ for the land
Lucy and Ramona and their brother Sunset Sam.

Lucy and Ramona and Sunset Sam!
People on the streets tryin’ to find a plan!
People on the streets lookin’ for the land!
Lucy and Ramona and their brother Sunset Sam!

* Oh, about that music video pioneer thing: Did you know that Nesmith was the idea man behind MTV? One of the projects he developed after founding Pacific Arts was a half-hour show that aired on  Nickelodeon called “Pop Clips.” The honchos at Time-Warner liked it so much, they used it as a template to create the world’s first all-video channel. Oh yeah: And his mom invented Liquid Paper. True story.

Sources:

This is just one of the awesome series conceived by Julia Frey. For the latest list check out: LA Metblogs Series: Songs About Los Angeles.

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