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Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends Paperback – May 1, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Joni Mitchell; Neil Young; Jackson Browne; James Taylor; ""Tapestry""-era Carole King; Crosby, Stills and Nash their songs really did seem special then and, to a surprising degree, remain so now.
Influenced by the way Bob Dylan's success in the 1960s gave young songwriters permission to say anything they wanted in their lyrics, and created an audience that eagerly awaited such daring writing, they moved toward the intimately confessional. They were uncommonly good at it, often ruefully melancholy, and they scored million-selling hits.
Hoskyns looks at the time and place that spawned the singer-songwriters and their friends and lovers - the counterculture-friendly, surprisingly rustic and (at the time) affordable hillside canyons separating Los Angeles' busy basin and oceanfront communities from its equally busy suburban Valley. Laurel Canyon, especially, but also Topanga Canyon and some others. Some of the book's subjects were born in Southern California and some came from elsewhere; some started writing in California and some brought their established careers with them.
""It was very different from the Tin Pan Alley tradition, where guys would sit down and try to write a hit song and turn out these teen-romance songs about other people,"" Henry Diltz, a photographer friend of the singer-songwriters, is quoted as saying.
The results - Mitchell's ""Ladies of the Canyon"" and ""Both Sides Now,"" Young's ""Old Man"" and ""Heart of Gold,"" Browne's ""For a Dancer,"" Taylor's ""Fire and Rain,"" King's ""It's Too Late"" and many more - constitute a golden era of American songwriting.
It's one that might not come again in terms of quality and cultural impact. And the possibility that it was a peak seems to be dawning on their core audience of aging boomers, as well as publishers. Hoskyns' book follows by just a few weeks another on the same subject, Michael Walker's ""Laurel Canyon.""
This takes its title from a song by one of the biggest acts to emerge from the milieu, the Eagles, who covered material from the singer-songwriters in addition to composing their own. They are not the best examples of the scene's artistry but certainly of its commercial success. Hoskyns uses the term ""rocklite"" to describe their sound.
A British journalist and critic whose previous books about American music include the superb ""Strange Days, Weird Scenes, and the Sound of Los Angeles"" and ""Across the Great Divide: The Band and America,"" Hoskyns is knowledgeable about his subject. He loves delving behind the hits and the superstars to see who else was making valuable music in L.A. during the period.
In doing so, he points out that the canyon's ""organic"" singer-songwriters weren't the only thing happening in L.A., nor was their approach unchallenged by others. As a result, ""Hotel California"" has some lively and intriguing ideas about the shortcomings of confessional songwriting - a preoccupation with self-reflection - that gives the book intellectual weight.
An L.A. singer-songwriter who was a contemporary of the others - Randy Newman - has proven long-lasting precisely because he wasn't confessional, Hoskyns observes. ""Using third-person characters - or singing in character - Randy's songs were suffused by irony, often stunningly funny."" He also has praise for the satirically political work of Frank Zappa, and for the exploration of ""the darker side of the California dream"" pursued by Tim Buckley and Tom Waits.
For that matter, Neil Young had as much of a dark side as an idealistic one, Hoskyns points out - he once recommended that his record label sign an aspiring songwriter named Charles Manson (be-fore the Tate-LaBianca murders).
In their personal lives, the canyon singer-songwriters pract
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Top Customer Reviews
On the other hand, if you've grown to admire the craftsmanship and durability of the songs that came out of that era, you probably deserve a more thorough and mature account of the "cowboy canyon" scene (to use Walter Becker's phrase).
Barney Hoskyns deftly covers a lot of historical ground in about 250 pages. But the quick pace leaves more than a few loose ends hanging. Early major players Barry Friedman and Mama Cass fade away fast, while Fleetwood Mac has its meteoric rise crammed into two pages. Disappointingly, Hoskyns spends more time on faves Gene Clark of the Byrds and Lowell George of Little Feat.
This leaves the usual chronicling of mega-players David Geffen, Irving Azoff, The Eagles, Linda Rondstadt, CSNY, Jackson Browne, et.al. At least novices will find out why JD Souther was so integral to the scene, even if his solo albums aren't well known.
That said, there is some bitchy fun to be had reading less-than-flattering accounts of Joni Mitchell (high-living snob), Gram Parsons (rich-kid hanger on) and even Neil Young (whose mercurial career changes seem less heroic than self-centered). These irreverant portraits are refreshing, if one-dimensional.
Wait until this comes out in paperback. Crack open a bottle of Cuervo and a few other refreshments from the era and enjoy a frivolous afternoon.
Joni and Jackson were responsible for a succession of excellent singer songwriter LPs spread out amongst the entire decade. The Eagles were perhaps the biggest selling US band of the time. Linda Ronstadt--the most popular female rocker (if you can call her that) of the second half of the decade, never wrote her own material but recorded some better than average records which were unavoidable on '70s FM radio. Other luminaries such as J.D. Souther, Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks and many others get generous coverage.
So pick it up. If this kind of music interests you at all you won't be dissapointed.
Geffen is a major part of the story of Hotel California. His influence and drive helped to make the emergence of the left coast as the "new music capital" of America possible. But the story is so huge and involves so many figures that the book would have to be three times as long in order tell more than a cursory overview of the California music scene.
I also don't know if the book does particular homage in a good light to certain personalities of the day, especially Joni Mitchell. The rest of the cast of characters are all very familiar to anyone over the age of 45 and this book is a good introduction to the California scene. When combined with several other excellent book that are currently available about The Byrds, Gene Clark, Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young as well as Crosby, Stills and Nash, the picture becomes more focused. Otherwise, this book is like watching the history of a decade or more of music in a two hour special by Ken Burns. It leaves you wanting more.
Buy it, read it and then keeping reading other accounts of the time. It can take you back and take you forward... just like the music and the scene in 70's California.
Hoskyns's skill in this book, as in his previous Los Angeles music book, is an ability to sift through anecdotes, interviews, his own and others' journalism, and to present a clearly told, accessible, and entertaining read. It's neither too gossipy nor too clinical; he manages, I think, to find pretty much the right balance. Walker and Hoskyns agree that the rise of the early 70s musicians party and pleasure ethos by its hedonism, navel gazing, and focus on self-satisfaction tolled the death knoll for Summer of Love idealism. Figures who bridged these two eras (pre-Woodstock to post-Watergate) such as Crosby and Stills come off the worse for wear after this chemically fueled race to the top of the charts. Those who followed the politicized folk-rock with a complacent ruralized mid-tempo rock soon eclipsed their addled forebears, at least as judging by Henley and Frey! As in Walker's story, the ubiquitous Pamela Des Barres, the enigmatic Joni Mitchell, and the old timer Henry Diltz all recall their own escapades at length.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the greatest collection of rock musicians stories in history. I do not know how the author got all the material and how true it is, but it was nothing short of fascinating. Read morePublished 27 days ago by Amazon Customer
One of the 5 best rock late 60s early 70's book I have read. Amazingly told tale involving a who's who of music's best artists such as Lowell, Joni , Crosby, Stills Nash & Young ,... Read morePublished 1 month ago by R.M.
An overly wordy take on the music business in LA of the late 60's and 70's. A sad decline of music as art into a money driven business. Read morePublished 2 months ago by M. Kropp
Fine book..wish just a little more detail and back story had been done on Linda Ronstadt and her several backing bands. Read morePublished 2 months ago by John H. Chaffer
Hoskyns recounts a spectacular time of life in LA in the '70's (I was there, and I remember it) but I think the book could have been structured better - it seems to bounce around,... Read morePublished 2 months ago by clyde714
I agree with all the other one star reviewers. I am very interested in the subject matter but had to stop reading after 72 pages. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bruce
Love this era and all the music and characters involved, this book takes you through many of the highlights of the period. Read morePublished 3 months ago by KMickP