- Text by Alex King
Don’t get on the tour bus. Whatever you do, don’t get on the tour bus. LA has a million stories to tell, but if you choose to sit back and watch it all pass by behind air-conditioned glass you’ll barely scratch the surface.
If you really want to go deep, beneath the overlapping layers of the city’s history (and if you don’t have the plane fare) Tom Explores LA is the way to go.
Armed with just a camera, a passion for discovering LA’s storied history and sometimes his skateboard, alternative tour guide Tom Carroll’s fantastic YouTube channel takes us on a tour of overlooked landmarks like the derelict Lincoln Heights Jail, the Murphy Ranch Nazi Compound or Evergreen Cemetery, which reveal the city in an eye-opening way – even for locals.
We profiled Tom in Huck’s Adventure Issue and took advantage of his insider knowledge again for this playlist, where he lists his favourite books, films and spots in LA.
Los Angeles Plays Itself by Thom Anderson
“Thom Anderson’s meta-documentary epic on how the movies portray the city of Los Angeles and in turn, how the city of Los Angeles shapes film, is a must-watch for anyone trying to understand “the most photographed city in the world.” If my curiosity needs a spark, this is what I turn to.”
Yung Lean – ‘Yoshi City’
“I don’t think a week has passed that I haven’t listened to Yung Lean’s ‘Yoshi City’ since it came out last summer. I’m half Swedish, maybe I feel some sort of connection to my “roots.” One things for sure, Yung Gud’s production is on point – etherial, haunting and spacious. I guess I’m a card-carrying SADBOY at this point.”
Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles
“Reyner Banham was a great thinker and Professor of Architecture who wrote a seminal book on Los Angeles entitled Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies. This BBC-produced companion documentary came out in 1972, a year after his book was first published. Its early ‘70s campiness needs to be seen to be believed. From a proto-Siri navigation unit referred to as “Beta Kar” to gratuitous nudity, it is not to be missed.”
New Beverly Cinema
“The New Beverly provides one of the best movie going experiences in La La Land. For $8, you get to see a double feature in 35mm; you can’t beat it. Derrick (the Director of Tom Explores Los Angeles) and I saw Inherent Vice here a few days before it opened, and Paul Thomas Anderson made a surprise appearance to introduce the movie. Tarantino owns it now, and much of what is screened there is from his personal collection of celluloid. Tons of fun.”
This American Life – 107: Trail of Tears
“Nothing made me want to tell stories more than This American Life. I started listening in 2003 after my English Teacher played an episode for us and I was hooked. No other programme (video or radio) is so consistently compelling and so well put together. Ira Glass makes smaller stories shine and gives them the breathing room to fully play out. The way he and his producers craft stories inspire me on a day to day basis when making Tom Explores Los Angeles. Sarah Vowell’s story “Trail of Tears” is one my favourite episodes of TAL, not only for how personal the story is but it’s just an incredibly well written piece of non-fiction. Sarah and her twin sister re-trace the “Trail of Tears” — the route their Cherokee ancestors took when expelled from their own land by President Andrew Jackson.”
City of Quartz by Mike Davis
“My sense of adventure starts with curiosity. No other book left me with more questions than Mike Davis’ City of Quartz. At times, it feels a bit like reading mud, but it frames Los Angeles in a way that I had never considered. Davis asks questions and shows a side of the city neglected by most historians.”