Sheryl Crow opens "All I Wanna Do" by telling us, "This is L.A." And then she does just that - she sings L.A.! That's it, it's essence-of-L.A., distilled and bottled on the shelf to take with you wherever you go.
You could take it to outer space and whenever you get homesick, just take off the cap and inhale and you'll smell the smog burning your sinuses and see the orange-purple sunsets and the lines of identical palm trees and hear the endless racket of traffic and watch the people who dress nice, live in McMansions, drive shiny, well-scrubbed cars, and sit around in paradise bored out of their minds most of the time.
Nobody captures the soul of a city like Sheryl Crow. This song was released for airplay a full year after the album came out, when, in 1993, Crow was teetering on the edge of obscurity, sort-of famous but not really having a solid hit. It went on to chart in the US as #2 and the UK as #4, plus sweeping the 1995 Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, as well as being nominated for Song of the Year.
And to think that she was just going to throw this one away! In her 2006 interview for Blender magazine, Crow described "All I Wanna Do" as being a throwaway that she wasn't even going to put on the album, until her little brother convinced her to include it, telling her that this was the hit. This is often the case; ask any creative artist and they'll tell you that the most popular work is frequently the stuff you just doodle out in ten minutes because you were playing around.
All kinds of interesting trivia surrounds the song. The line "This ain't no disco" is a shout-out to the Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime." The lyrics are actually adapted from the poem "Fun" by Wyn Cooper, which appeared in the book The Country of Here Below. Cooper got royalties from the song. The song's basic structure is often compared to "Stuck In The Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel - try singing the words of one to the melody of the other and you'll see why.
The street in the song is Santa Monica Boulevard, which, as any Angeleno can tell you, is a quintessentially Angeline street. It's business, it's pleasure, there's even a little dash of residence along the way. Now, picking out the exact bar and car wash of the song is another matter. Rumors abound, but none can be authenticated any more than any other rumor. L.A. is a city with, seemingly, a car wash and a bar on every block. Sometimes it seems like half of the citizens must live in a car wash and work at a bar, or the other way around. So it's a dead certainty that there is more than one bar across from a car wash on Santa Monica Boulevard.
You'll have to ask "Billy." If you can find him, that is. That's going to be hard, because the actor playing him was deleted from the final cut of the video, leaving only his shadow creeping along the wall in one scene. If you can't figure it out, that's because songs like this, like "a good beer buzz early in the morning," aren't meant to be thought about too hard.
Place: Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, California
In the December 2006 issue of Blender magazine, Crow explained: "We were jamming in the studio, and I picked up this poem (titled Fun) in a book - the first line was 'All I wanna do is have some fun.' It encapsulated what was going on in L.A., a real extreme feeling of apathy and defeat. It's masked in this light Pop ditty, but it's about somebody down and out, sitting in a bar watching their life go by. I contacted the poet, Wyn Cooper, and he was really pleased. And the song was easy for me to sell because it was a character I could easily slip into. There was a lot of drinking going on in my life then, a lot of late-night bars. The song was a throwaway - it wasn't even going to be on the album. My little brother kept saying, 'This is a big hit.' And there really is a bar on Formosa across from a car wash. But I haven't ever spent a morning in a bar having a beer." Album : Tuesday Night Music Club Released : 1993 US chart position : 2 UK chart position : 4