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Hotel California [Hardcover]

Barney Hoskyns
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 April 2007
"Hoskyns brings a genuine love as well as an outsider′s keen eye to the rise and fall of the California scene. . . . This is a riveting story, sensitively told." — Anthony DeCurtis, Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone From enduring musical achievements to drug–fueled chaos and bed–hopping antics, the L.A. pop music scene in the sixties and seventies was like no other, and journalist Barney Hoskyns re–creates all the excitement and mayhem. Hotel California brings to life the genesis of Crosby, Stills, and Nash at Joni Mitchell’s house; the Eagles’ backstage fistfights after the success of "Hotel California"; the drama of David Geffen and the other money men who transformed the L.A. music scene; and more.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons (2 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471732737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471732730
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 17 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 917,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Rock historian Barney Hoskyns is the author of nine books and has written about music and pop culture for numerous publications including NME, The Times, Guardian, Vogue and Mojo, of which he was Associate Editor. He lives in London.

Product Description


In "Hotel California," Barney Hoskyns uses variations on a telling phrase – "wise (or weary) be–yond their years" – to explain why the compositions of the Los Angeles–based singer–songwriters of the early to mid–1970s have proved so enduring. 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 practiced what one of them, Stephen Stills, preached in his hits "Love the One You′re With" and "Change Partners." Plus, they took a lot of drugs. Hoskyns feels obligated to explore that. In that way, the book mirrors the commercially successful approach Peter Biskind′s "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" took to profiling the New Hollywood filmmaking rebels of the same era. But I wish he had just skipped it – or saved it for individual biographies of Young, Mitchell, Browne, Taylor, et al. It cuts into the space he has for chronicling the creation of so many enduring songs and albums. His insight into the music is valuable and fascinating enough that one wishes there was twice as much as what′s here. —Steven Rosen is a freelance writer in Los Angeles. ( The Denver Post , July 30, 2006)

"His insight into the music is valuable and fascinating enough that one wishes there was twice as much as what′s here." ( The Denver Post, July 30th, 2006)

From the Inside Flap

This book is a remarkable insider′s look at one of the most dramatic, creative, and revolutionary settings in American popular culture: the Los Angeles popular music scene from the late 1960s through the late 1970s. After the world fell in love with the steady stream of hit records from the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, and Buffalo Springfield in the mid–1960s, the music industry′s center of gravity shifted from New York to L.A.′s Laurel Canyon, a bucolic haven for artists and pop–music prodigies minutes from the buzz of the Sunset Strip. Hotel California takes you on an intimate tour of this scene as you read a treasure trove of original material about the musical and personal doings of sixties and seventies singer–songwriters, superstars, and producers. Through insights provided by extraordinarily candid firsthand interviews, author Barney Hoskyns has conducted over more than three decades, Hotel California reveals key moments in the creative and professional lives of—as well as many of the less professional adventures of—these legends. Hoskyns delivers fascinating new details about how Joni Mitchell created her otherworldly masterpieces while romancing David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and others. You′ll read things you′ve never read before about Glenn Frey′s narcissism, Linda Ronstadt′s intellect, Don Henley′s troubled conscience, and more. You′ll discover how mega–mogul David Geffen lured handsome young musicians to sign with his new record label and how the Eagles became the biggest band in America. You′ll learn about Mama Cass Elliot′s perpetual open house and her penchant for trading drugs for sex with good–looking young men and about the major substance abuse problems that plagued the Eagles, David Crosby, and others—problems that eventually took the lives of such major talents as Jim Morrison and Gram Parsons. Hotel California is a narrative of rise and fall—from the hootenanny love–in innocence of talented, fresh–eyed young women and men with acoustic guitars to the coked–out superstardom of mid–70s stadium rock. It tells an epic tale of songs and sunshine; sex, drugs, and denim; genius and greed. Packed with both fascinating anecdotes and sharp insights into the lives and careers of its larger–than–life subjects, this book captures a legendary era of musical discovery, the amazing results of successful creative collaboration, and the much darker side of fame, wealth, and unbridled ambition. You won′t be able to put it down.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cocaine Cowboys - but not for the US edition 27 April 2006
For those of us lucky enough to live in the Los Angeles canyons - and for anyone interested in the particular brand of distinctive folk/country/FM rock (as it progressed from one to another) that emerged from LA in the late 1960s and early 1970s - Barney Hoskyns' book, Hotel California is essential reading.

Here in the US, it bears the somewhat cumbersome subtitle, The True-life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends, whereas the British edition, which I read (and which was published some months in advance of the US edition), has the far snappier - and provocative - Singer-Songwriters and Cocaine Cowboys in the LA Canyons, 1967-1976.

The book is a fascinating reminder of the music that mutated first from East Coast protest folk - largely through the influence of Doug Weston's Troubadour club on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood - into LA's own brand of mostly Laurel Canyon-based country-folk, then went on to achieve huge mainstream success through such musicians as Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (in their various incarnations), James Taylor and Jackson Browne, before becoming an FM radio behemoth with such acts as the Eagles - from whose signature album, the book's title is taken.

Along the way, Hoskyns' book dishes the dirt on the tangled relationships - and partner swapping and stealing - between many of the musicians, and the manner in which the music business, with no small help from a young and highly ambitious David Geffen, co-opted the LA sound into a massive money-making machine.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
The American west coat music of the seventies is sometimes unfairly denigrated as bland material peddled by coked out superstars with too much sunshine at hand. This isn't really the case as a number of classic albums 'Late For The Sky', 'Starsailor', 'Hissing Of Summer Lawns', 'On The Beach','Hotel California' etc came out of this scene. And any scene that included 3 of the best songwriters ever (Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young) has to be worth a look at. It's therefore good to see this area at last getting properly documented. Hoskyn’s book is thorough, (sometimes the sheer weight of reminisces and quotes from various artists and label execs forces you to re-read passages) and engaging. There's a lot to cover in this book and it's not for the short of attention span. It traces the roots of this scene describing how folk artists mutated into sensitive singer songwriters who in turn mutated into west coast americana. The book largely begins with the rise of Laurel Canyon in the late sixties as a sort of artist's colony and moves on from there through the rise of David Geffen's asylum label, and to the internecine rivalries of the Eagles at the height of their popularity. The book also reveals the inspirations and love affairs etc behind the songs - you learn some of the real life identities of the characters who populate Mitchell's and Browne's songs for instance.
In summation, anybody interested in Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, The Byrds, Gene Clark, Neil Young, Tim Buckley, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt etc. will get something out of this book.
Now a plea - will somebody please do properly remastered and documented reissues of the Asylum label classics. Oh, and as others across this site have asked for , can we have reissues of Tim Buckley's ‘Blue Afternoon’ and ‘Starsailor’ as well.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
By Chris Pearson VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I would not typically buy this type of book, expecting it to be written for the real enthusiasts. But, having enjoyed the words and music of so many of the artists written about-The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell and CSN to name but a few-and then to read how good it was in the Xmas press, I bought a copy.

And it is an excellent read. A real page turner. Personal stories, business stories, the high's and the low's, and the ultimate success that all these artists eventually brought to creating one of the most distinctive periods in US music history.Their stories are much more intertwined than I first realised, but the graphic 'family tree' from Rolling Stone Magazine dated February 3rd 1972 at the beginning of the book sets out the plot clearly for all.

WIth many of the artists still performing and producing excellent material, it's an interesting look back at how they all began.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sunset Boulevard Rocks 31 July 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating insight to the somewhat musically incestuous tight knit Southern California community of the sixties and seventies. The threaded connections that led to such 'supergroups' as The Eagles and CSN&Y are a true indication that, in most instances, they could not have survived and thrived without each other. A complex human jigsaw of incredible talent, if ever there was one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent trip back in time 15 July 2012
By Dougie
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was born too late for this era of music, but in my opinion, the best music there has consistently been was from this time. This book provides personal insights into the movers and shakers behind the music.
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