Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood

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Overview

In the late sixties and early seventies, an impromptu collection of musicians colonized a eucalyptus-scented canyon deep in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles and melded folk, rock, and savvy American pop into a sound that conquered the world as thoroughly as the songs of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had before them. Thirty years later, the music made in Laurel Canyon continues to pour from radios, iPods, and concert stages around the world. During the canyon's golden era, the musicians who lived and worked...

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Overview

In the late sixties and early seventies, an impromptu collection of musicians colonized a eucalyptus-scented canyon deep in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles and melded folk, rock, and savvy American pop into a sound that conquered the world as thoroughly as the songs of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had before them. Thirty years later, the music made in Laurel Canyon continues to pour from radios, iPods, and concert stages around the world. During the canyon's golden era, the musicians who lived and worked there scored dozens of landmark hits, from "California Dreamin'" to "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" to "It's Too Late," selling tens of millions of records and resetting the thermostat of pop culture.

In Laurel Canyon, veteran journalist Michael Walker tells the inside story of this unprecedented gathering of some of the baby boom's leading musical lights—including Joni Mitchell; Jim Morrison; Crosby, Stills, and Nash; John Mayall; the Mamas and the Papas; Carole King; the Eagles; and Frank Zappa, to name just a few—who turned Los Angeles into the music capital of the world and forever changed the way popular music is recorded, marketed, and consumed.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Beginning in the mid-1960s, a string of successful rock bands emerged out of Laurel Canyon, a neighborhood of Los Angeles tucked away in the hills north of Sunset Boulevard. From the success of bands like the Byrds and the Mamas and the Papas, and singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Jimmy Webb, Walker proposes Laurel Canyon as rock's answer to Jazz Age Paris. It's a plausible concept, but one he stumbles to elaborate past the length of a magazine feature. The journalist, who lives in Laurel Canyon, delivers strong material on some of the musicians he cites, particularly in early chapters about Crosby, Stills & Nash and Frank Zappa, but offers little about other equally significant acts. Instead, he pads the story with lengthy sections on groupies and the music scene in other parts of the city, the Altamont concert (which was hundreds of miles away) and a digression on the history of cocaine. Furthermore, his enthusiasm for the Laurel Canyon legend leads to shaky critical pronouncements. If "the folk stars of the early 1960s were the first rock stars," for example, then what was Elvis? 8 pages of b&w photos. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Pop culture journalist Walker has written a fascinating study of the Los Angeles neighborhood in which he lives and its relationship to developments in American popular music in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Throughout, Walker makes a strong case for Laurel Canyon being at least as important as San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury in defining the sound of pop music. Beginning with the Mamas and the Papas's California Dreamin' and continuing through the work of Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Frank Zappa, the Eagles, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Laurel Canyon is associated with pop, rock, the singer-songwriter movement, and the birth of country rock. Walker discusses the neighborhood itself, the rock'n'roll way of life, and the music in a relaxed, clear style, drawing on published accounts of the various personalities involved. This book should make an excellent addition to any public or university library's popular culture collection. Owing to some of the frank discussion of the lifestyle of the time, secondary school librarians will probably want to preview. Highly recommended.-James E. Perone, Mount Union Coll., Alliance, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An uninspired tribute to Laurel Canyon. Pop-culture writer Walker (the New York Times, Rolling Stone, etc.) has a potentially interesting hook for an umpteenth recounting of the Los Angeles music scene of the late '60s and '70s: Rather than focus on the musicians or the music, Walker concentrates on the neighborhood where many of the key players set up house: laid-back, rustic Laurel Canyon, a sleepy idyll nestled above the hurly-burly of the city proper, where marijuana smoke and eucalyptus flavored the air and the sensitive strumming of singer-songwriters reverberated among the trees. The problem is that there is nothing much interesting about Laurel Canyon. Cheap rents and a bohemian atmosphere attracted the likes of the Byrds, Joni Mitchell, various members of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the Eagles and Frank Zappa-who got high, played the guitar and hung out. Undoubtedly fun for them, but hardly riveting reading. Even the curiously high incidence of house fires fails to liven things up much. Walker writes passionately and well about the demimonde, but the smug, faintly toxic coziness of the "scene" quickly begins to pall. Groupies hold forth on the lifestyle, club owners and artist managers reminisce about the good times, Graham Nash rhapsodizes about the house he shared with Joni Mitchell, and it's all a bit like listening to your parents tell their college stories. Unlike Swinging London, with its inherently dramatic generational conflict and cultural upheaval exploding from the stifled misery of post-war shortages and a crushing class system, this charmed corner of southern California was, in these pages, a mellow, contentedly bland paradise, Eden before the fall. One wishes for aserpent or two. A nap also induces a peaceful, easy feeling.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786174355
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2006
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 7 CDs, 480 minutes
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Laurel Canyon

The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood
By Walker, Michael

Faber & Faber

Copyright © 2006 Walker, Michael
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0571211496

Excerpted from Laurel Canyon by Michael Walker Copyright © 2006 by Michael Walker. Published in May 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

PREFACE

In 1968 a British pop star and the refugees from two seminal Los Angeles bands gathered in a cottage on Lookout Mountain Avenue in Laurel Canyon, the slightly seedy, camp-like neighborhood of serpentine one-lane roads, precipitous hills, fragrant eucalyptus trees, and softly crumbling bungalows set down improbably in the middle of Los Angeles, and sang together for the first time. The occupant of the cottage, which had moldering shake shingles and draft-prone casement windows, was a Canadian painter, poet, and folksinger named Joni Mitchell. The British pop star, sporting a wisp of a goatee and a thick Manchester brogue, was Graham Nash, founding member of the Hollies. The refugees were Stephen Stills, late of the Buffalo Springfield, writer and singer of "For What It's Worth," who had three years before auditioned for the Monkees and, having failed, recommended his friend, a folkie named Peter Torkelson; and David Crosby, late of the Byrds and "Mr. Tambourine Man," possessed of a Buffalo Bill mustache,an immaculate harmony voice, and piercing eyes that Mitchell, with typical literary flourish, likened to star sapphires. (Crosby produced Mitchell's debut album, Song to a Seagull.) So it was that Nash, Stills, and Crosby sat in Mitchell's living room on Lookout Mountain, in the heart of Laurel Canyon, in the epicenter of L.A.'s nascent rock music industry, and for the first time, began to sing together.

It is a measure of Laurel Canyon's mythmaking powers that this particular watershed may have actually occurred not at Mitchell's cottage--though that's the way Nash and plenty of others remember it--but a mile away in the living room of Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, who along with Mitchell briefly co-reigned as unofficial queen of the canyon, one an inscrutable poet-genius, the other a bosomy, meddling mother figure. What is certain is that within the year, Nash, Stills, and Crosby apotheosized into Crosby, Stills & Nash, the third group with Laurel Canyon roots within as many years--after the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield--to score a knockout with their first record. Nash moved into Mitchell's cottage on Lookout, there to write his ode to countercultural domestic bliss, "Our House." Mitchell, in turn, wrote and recorded "Ladies of the Canyon," her paean to the strange bohemian netherland where she and Nash nurtured their affair and where it would soon become evident that some of the twentieth century's most talented and enterprising young men and women had gathered at just the right moment.

Laurel Canyon had been filling up with musicians from Los Angeles, New York, and London since the mid-1960s: Mitchell was a transplant from New York via Saskatoon; Carole King had recently decamped to a place on Appian Way; so had Nico, the Teutonic waif from Andy Warhol's Factory. Up the street from Mitchell's place were John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, and Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas, who, until they moved west and recorded "California Dreamin'" and "Monday, Monday," had busked around as semi-obscure folksingers. British bands touring the States made it a point to stop by Laurel Canyon for a party or two--Beatles, Stones, Animals, Yardbirds, and the rest. Some never left--the British blues legend John Mayall bought a house just over the ridge from Mitchell's place. It was Brigadoon meets the Brill Building, and the repercussions thirty-odd years later continue to pour from radios, iPods, and concert stages around the world.

Continues...

Excerpted from Laurel Canyon by Walker, Michael Copyright © 2006 by Walker, Michael. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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