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.
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.