- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber; First Edition edition (May 16, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0571211496
- ISBN-13: 978-0571211494
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 128 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood Hardcover – May 16, 2006
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From 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Walker recalls, mostly sweetly, the famed breeding ground for the L.A. cool that pervaded late-1960s American rock. He offers candid, insightful glimpses of Frank Zappa's bizarre, brief tenure in early cowboy movie star Tom Mix's old log cabin; the jangly social and musical interaction of the Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Joni Mitchell; the rise of the singer-songwriter marketing label; and the scourge of casual cocaine abuse that pervaded the era and, soon, much of the rest of Woodstock Nation. He pads aplenty about tangential issues hardly unique to Laurel Canyon, such as, besides cocaine, those somewhat forgotten but then integral figures on the pop music scene, groupies. Nevertheless, he is pretty comprehensive about a pivotal place and time in American rock. If not quite essential to the rock shelves, the book valuably accounts for how, with the rise of the Eagles and their bland, strictly commercial ilk, the term mellow lost its luster as a pop-music -descriptor. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
Did I miss the chapter on Joni Mitchell? Seems like she should have had more play.
But an nice read. Good insider info. Wraps up well.
With that highly positive premise, let me mention two areas I found off-putting:
First, Mr. Walker spends an inordinant amount of time discussing some "super groupie" named Morgana Welch. He gives her the emphasis you would expect that a significant musician, movie director or producer might receive. Granted, the perspective of a throw-away bimbo (the view her partners would have had, not necessarily mine), might be of passing interest. But "groupies" are a dime-a-dozen to this day, and there is no indication that Ms. Welch had any particularized insight. (Although I'm sure she was readily available to interview.) I thought her recollections kind of exaggerated her significance to the scene, as if her pathetic role as an available and groveling partner made much of a difference to the evolution of the music which was made. I think her contribution merited an anecdotal paragraph or two, and not much more. The hodge-podge of recollections and insights in the book from other less-than-famous people seemed more interesting and more commensurate to their roles.
Second, Mr. Walker contends that Laurel Canyon and the nearby Sunset Strip were essentially "the epicenter" for the late-sixties and early-seventies music scene. He loses a little credibility by slightly over-stating this proposition. I was not there at the time, and I was a little too young to track the events as they unfolded, but I am a collector and huge fan of most varieties of sixties music. While The Byrds, Joni Mitchell, CSN&Y, the Doors, Frank Zappa, some of the Eagles, and a handful of other musical groups (Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Micky Dolenz of Monkee's fame) are all of significance, they collectively still represent just a drop in the huge ocean of what was going on, and being recorded, and who was playing live, during that time. That fact that Mick and Marianne or Eric Clapton dropped by once, or that other famous musical revelers were occasionally spotted in the area, does not escalate, in my opinion, the significance quite as much as Mr. Walker contends in his premise for the book. I have hundreds of albums (and vintage concert posters) from this time-frame and the so-called "School of Rock"-type "musical family tree" extends a vast majority of heavy branches which have little to no connection with the Laurel Canyon crowd. Mr. Walker is generally very objective in his presentation of all which he covers, but I think his love and affection for Laurel Canyon (as he is a resident) slightly clouds his objectivity on this one point.
But, as I mentioned, these are really just minor greivances which I vent only to add credibility to my overall high appreciation for the work here. I really loved this book. I don't live far from Laurel Canyon, and I'm looking forward to making another expedition to it now that I have all this history. Mr. Walker, I would love to see you ply your skills to a biography of Bill Graham. His career is within your realm of expertise, and I'm confident you could give him the sophisticated and excellent treatment that he deserves and that you've proved yourself capable of delivering.