San Franciscan Nights

"San Franciscan Nights" is a 1967 song performed by Eric Burdon and The Animals. Words and music were composed by the group's members, Eric Burdon, Vic Briggs, John Weider, Barry Jenkins, and Danny McCulloch. A paean to San Francisco, it was the biggest hit that the new band – as opposed to the first-incarnation Animals of the mid-1960s – would have. It reached a peak position of number 1 on the Canadian RPM charts, number 9 on the U.S. pop singles chart,[1] and number 7 on the UK pop singles chart.

"San Franciscan Nights"
Single by Eric Burdon and The Animals
from the album Winds of Change
B-side"Good Times" (USA), "Gratefully Dead" (UK)
ReleasedAugust 1967
Format7" single
Songwriter(s)Burdon, Briggs, Weider, Jenkins, McCulloch
Producer(s)Tom Wilson
Eric Burdon and The Animals singles chronology
"When I Was Young"
"San Franciscan Nights"
"Good Times"


The band wrote "San Franciscan Nights" themselves as a protest song against the Vietnam War. Looking back on the tune in a 2010 interview with Songfacts, Burdon said: "The 'Love Generation' helped the anti-war stance in the States. It certainly turned a lot of soldiers' heads around, making them wonder why they had to be out fighting a war when back home their girlfriends were frolicking around and it caused a lot of anguish on that level. Maybe it helped politically with the so-called enemy. I'm not sure." [2]

The song opens with a brief parody of the Dragnet theme. This is followed by a spoken word dedication by Burdon "to the city and people of San Francisco, who may not know it but they are beautiful and so is their city," with Burdon urging European residents to "save up all your bread and fly Trans Love Airways to San Francisco, U.S.A.," to enable them to "understand the song," and "for the sake of your own peace of mind."

The melody then begins with lyrics about a warm 1967 San Franciscan night, with hallucinogenic images of a "strobe light's beam" creating dreams, walls and minds moving, angels singing, "jeans of blue," and "Harley Davidsons too," contrasted with a "cop's face is filled with hate" (on a street called "Love") and an appeal to the "old cop" and the "young cop" to just "feel all right." Pulling in as many 1960s themes as possible, the song then concludes with a plea that the American dream include "Indians too."

The flipside of the UK version of this single was a song called "Gratefully Dead", another nod from the Animals to the San Francisco scene.

Burdon's notion that San Francisco's nights are warm drew some derision from Americans more familiar with the city's climate – best exemplified by the apocryphal Mark Twain saying "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco"[3] – and music writer Lester Bangs thought Burdon's notion "inexplicable".[4] But in fact, Burdon and his group had recently played in San Francisco during a rare 10-day stretch of exceptionally warm spring weather, which left a strong, if erroneous impression on them.

At a concert in Naperville, Illinois in 2010, Burdon said the song was written about an evening with Janis Joplin in San Francisco.

Cover versions

Romanian rock band Sfinx recorded in 1967 a cover version of the song with a totally different set of lyrics. It was never released on disc and is now known both as "Toamna" (ro. "Autumn") and "Nu mai sunt flori de mai" (ro. "No more flowers of May"). The guitar riff in the song's original version is doubled by the French horn, played by hornist Petre Iordache. Lead vocals are sung by guitarist Octav Zemlicka.

Japanese Psychedelic Rock band The Mops released a cover in 1968 on their debut album, Psychedelic Sounds in Japan.

The song was covered by Swedish pop singer Harpo, in 1977.

The song was also covered by The Flying Carpets and can be heard in Spotify.

The Hip Hop group by the name of People Under The Stairs sampled a version of this song as performed by Gábor Szabó & The California Dreamers from the 1967 album Wind, Sky, And Diamonds.

On The Drew Carey Show, Drew and his band (featuring Joe Walsh) covered this song with new lyrics about Cleveland, Ohio.


  1. "Winds of Change charts and awards". Allmusic. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  2. "San Franciscan Nights". Retrieved December 25, 2010.
  3. Nolte, Carl (August 19, 2005). "Fog Heaven: The sun will come out tomorrow. Or maybe not. It's summer in the city, and that means gray skies". San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Communications. p. A-1. Retrieved June 13, 2008.
  4. Lester Bangs (1980). "The British Invasion". The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. Random House/Rolling Stone Press.
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