A Korean friend of my mine recently phoned me with some exciting news: after years of diligent study and hard work, she finally saved enough money to travel to San Diego, California to partake in an immersion English course. It had been her lifelong dream to study in the states, and in a few short months, it would soon be a reality.
As we drove to a restaurant to celebrate the milestone event, she turned on her car’s stereo and popped in a CD she had burned; skimming the tracks until finally she found the one she was looking for. To my surprise it was Albert Hammond’s 1972 AM Radio hit, “It Never Rains in Southern California.” Some odd music filters it’s way into Korean radio waves, and this song was no exception.
“This is the song I listen to to prepare for my trip,” she said giddily. “I can’t wait!” On its surface, the song, which once charted at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 list, certainly makes California seem like an ideal place. But listen a little closer and you might find that titles can be deceiving. Sings Hammond in the chorus:
Out of work, I’m out of my head
Out of self respect, I’m out of bread
I’m under loved, I’m underfed, I wanna go home
It never rains in California, but girl don’t they warn ya
It pours, man it pours
As I watched her sing along and sway her shoulders to the jangly beat, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that song is actually about someone who travels to California seeking success, only to have his hopes and dreams crushed by disappointment and failure. I kept my mouth shut, and she just kept tapping away at on the steering wheel, oblivious to the song’s intended meaning. It was better that way. The way she so effortlessly gravitated to the positive virtues of a depressing song was kind of inspiring. It was like the way a cat manages to find the one sliver of sunshine in dark room and to lay down in, or the way a little kid can take a mangled old refrigerator box and turn into a spaceship. Why dwell on the negative when all you have to do is simply latch onto the thing you like the most and discard the rest? It never rains in California, and as far as my friend is concerned, it never will.
*Interesting Side Note: If the name Albert Hammond sounds familiar, that’s because it is. He is the father of Albert Hammond Jr., the rhythm guitarist for The Strokes. Don’t believe me? Here’s the visual evidence: