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Laurel Canyon Dreamin'

Laurel Canyon : The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood by Michael WalkerLaurel CCanyon

Sex, drugs and rock and roll. That was the '60s. Laurel Canyon is a few miles of funky houses and what passes as "woods" in Southern California that runs through the Santa Monica Mountains between Sunset Blvd in Hollywood and Ventura Blvd in the Valley. It was the birthplace for the best of '60s rock and the California sound.

Michael Walker writes about the before and after in Laurel Canyon. The early chapters are stories of the music and friendships between the musicians and songwriters who lived in the neighborhood. Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash lived near Frank Zappa and his wife Gail. John and Michelle Phillips, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, Jim Morrison, John Kay (Steppenwolf), Mickey Dolenz (the Monkees) Mark Volman (the Turtles) were all neighbors. "Listening parties" would happen when new albums were released. Doors were unlocked, the business side of music was casual, fame and money wasn't yet a divisive issue. Cass Eliot was the Mama to all, her home was a "a rock-and-roll Bloomsbury". With some gentle scheming, she brought Steven stills, from Buffalo Springfield, together with Graham Nash (the Hollies) and added David Crosby, who had been exiled from the Byrds. She knew before they did that Crosby Still and Nash would be perfect together.

Then came the Manson murders and Altamont and big money from record labels. Cocaine became as common as pot. Paranoia, near-deaths from drug abuse and overblown egos ended the era in the Canyon, much as it did all across the Woodstock Nation.

Walker tells great stories with loads of interview snips from Graham Nash, Michael Des Barres, Miss Pamela and Morgana Welch ("super groupies" of the day) and other minor players of the time. Some photos are included, fun, but the quality is weak. The book is a good history piece exploring the time and place that probably gave us the lasting sound of the singer-songwriter era.

Table of Contents ** Read an excerpt

Posted June 14, 2006 Permalink

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