San Franciscan Nights (1967)

Eric Burdon and The Animals

Winds Of Change
Air your thoughts on this DNA Source Song™ or suggest another worthy of the designation at Rock Populi.

Once the goofy, kitschy spoken-word intro is pushed out of the way, Eric Burdon And The Animals – a reconstitution of the group that gave us “House Of The Rising Sun” and “It’s My Life” – deliver a moody, foggy song that captures the darker, druggier side of San Francisco in 1967.

It’s a beautiful Folk-Rock song that is underlined by shimmering guitars, Burdon’s half-ironic un-melodic vocals, and an ever-so-slight Mexican-flavored musical motif lift it up.

Lyrically, “San Franciscan Nights” sketches a sense of the town as flocks of young people, the Hippies of fable, winged in from all over the world to take a dose of SF. A few deftly written couplets followed by the refrain pull it together.

Strobe lights beam creates dreams
Walls move minds do too
On a warm San Franciscan night


Angels sing leather wings
Jeans of blue Harley Davidsons too
On a warm San Franciscan night

There is a slight variation on the writing structure as the song comes to close:

Cop’s face is filled with hate
Heavens above he’s on a street called love
When will they ever learn
Old cop young cop feel alright
On a warm San Franciscan night

Critics at the time decried the “inaccuracy” of applying the adjective “warm” to nights on the bay. They were seized by the fever of literalism. Of course nights aren’t meteorologically warm, but the atmosphere drifting through the cities and towns was welcoming, tolerant, and in many ways, inspiring.

The composition was a group effort, and it is reflective not just of The Animals’ British outlook, (on a chilly London night?). It projects a general comprehension widespread in the western world that San Francisco represented a kind of cultural crescendo.

I wasn’t born there
Perhaps I’ll die there
There’s no place left to go
San Francisco