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on 30 July 2006
I recently bought this book after watching the film 'Almost Famous' and became interested in the culture of the 60's and 70's. I thought this book would be perfect as it not only talks about the music that was made during this time but about the lifestyles of the musicans, producers and of course the groupies. It starts with the musical movement in the early 60's and how musicicans in their droves flocked to the trendy neighbourhood of Laural Canyon. It starts with how Beatlemania swept through America and made the young musicians wake up and take note.

The book only discusses in length the musicians who lived in Laurel Canyon, The Byrds, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Frank Zappa and The Mama'a and The Papa's to name but a few. If your interested in reading about Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison you'd best buy another book as the author only touches on them as they either didn't live on Laurel Canyon or only did for a brief period. This book is as much about the musicians as it is about the neighbourhood, and what a cool neighbourhood it was.

The book talks about how during the 60's the baby boomers, as they were called, started making beautiful folk-rock music and started writing their own songs, something which was unheard off at that time. And how everybody was all peace love and understanding and how it soon changed when Charles Manson and is family committed the murders of Sharon Tate and friends. How hysteria swept over the neighbourhood when the musicians thought their was some sort of vendetta against the music folk. And different peoples accounts when they realised that many of them had jammed with Manson himself.

It discusses the different festivals Woodstock and the disaster that was Altamont. The different drugs which were consumed and how cocaine swept through the music biz during the 70's. However my favourite parts were reading the accounts of the groupies Miss Pamela, Pamela Des Barres of the GTO's and Morgana Welch. A fascinating read for anyone who is interested in the era of peace, free love and excess. Whether you lived through it or like myself born too late but none the less deeply fascinated by the crazy lifestyle that is Laurel Canyon.
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on 20 October 2008
I purchased this book because I have an interest in the music that arose from West Coast California in the late Sixties/Seventies.

I was born in '70, and have lived in England for most of my life, so the area covered in this book is technically 'foreign territory' for me, but as an artist and a musician I have always loved the golden glow of pastoral idyllic life that seems to permeate through the albums of Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, the Eagles and a host of others from those 'hippy' decades.

Discovering, as I did a while ago, that these figures lived and worked in close proximity to one another was a revelation for me, so too when I heard Graham Nash describe the Laurel Canyon scene in its heyday as being like 'Paris in the 20's', a rich fervent ground of bohemian creativity, artists buzzing, changing the face of contemporary culture worldwide.

Against this backdrop, this book appealed.

It describes, in painstakingly factual detail, the Canyon, its history, the rise of the Sixties scene in the wake of the Beatles, the place of drugs in that scene, the rise of the folk/rock/country music L.A. sound, some of the complex relationships between Zappa, The Mamas and Papas, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, CSN, The Doors, The Eagles, Elliot Roberts, David Geffen and a host of interconnected others who lived in and frequented the Canyon; the massive wealth and international stardom that came to many of its residents; the money, the cocaine, the parties, the fun, the L.A. venues, and ultimately the demise of the Canyon's artistic brilliance into drug abuse (rather than use), debauchery, sex, sleaze, crime, culminating in the Manson and Wonderland murders which signaled the end of this era.

It was a fascinating read. Slightly overly comprehensive in the thoroughness and meticulousness of its research perhaps, but it filled in many gaps in my knowledge. Now when I listen to Mitchell's 'Ladies of the Canyon' I am better informed of the context, know that the album cover depicts the view from the window of her house there, recognise the references in the songs...when I hear 'Our House' I understand that Graham Nash really did light the fire that day and that Joni really did buy a vase and that they really did live with two cats in the yard whilst fighting over who was going to exert their creativity on the piano. I get a glimpse of how incredibly exciting it must have been to live in those times, to have been there rubbing shoulders with Clapton, Mayall, Lennon, Morrison, Stills, Mitchell, to have seen Led Zeppelin rocking in their all their glory in L.A. in the early Seventies. There are snapshots of how extraordinary it must have been to have been a part of that scene, the clothes, the drugs, the women, the lifestyles, the 'Peace and Love generation' at its height, before things turned dark and sour, peace morphing into punk, money mutating artistic purity/innocence into decadence and an emphasis on commerciality, (as evidenced in the '80's).

All in all, a worthwhile read with a great cover. Many, many people have asked to read it after me. The only criticism I have is that I found myself flagging towards the end, bowled over by the exhaustive research!

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on 14 November 2007
I lived in Laurel Canyon during the eighties and developed a fascination with its architecture and history. A very quirky canyon enclave of eucalyptus trees, sage and wooden bungalows, complete with canyon wildlife of deer and coyotes, this unique fairytale place is smack-dab in the middle of congested, smoggy Los Angeles. Michael Walker clearly describes this backdrop to the music scene, giving a real feel of Laurel Canyon. Very informative on how these musicians came together, shaping the canyon and also music history: Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Mama Cass.. Full of fascinating details and insight about how the neighborhood (and indeed the late sixties themselves) merged from a feel-good folk, family-style psychedelic scene to one ravaged by the seedy effects of cocaine, the Manson murders, greed and broken trust. This book is a necessary read if you are interested in Los Angeles' history, if you're a fan of sixties/seventies music, or if you just like social history/culture. I had 3 out of 3 going for me, so I found this a perfect read!
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on 25 July 2013
Great read , Great research, well writen book about a very important and interesting chapter in modern musical history when people had a social responsibility and were not afraid to express it.
there are many other books out there telling the same story and this is only one of them but i really enjoyed it from start to finish.
Michael Walker tells it without any rose tinted glasses for sure...the good....the bad....and the ugly..
Great storys throughout and gives the reader a view of Los Angeles (mostly Laurel Canyon) during the mid 60s/70s (which was the period that was the most creative Musically speaking)
check it out.
for a more indepth look at the history of the Canyon itself buy Harvey Kuberniks book "the magic and the music of Laurel Canyon" which goes back even further to the 1920s.
Both books have a lot to give so why not buy then both?
Michael Walkers book has a few photos.
Harvey Kuberniks has lots of colour and b+w thoughout.

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on 27 October 2013
This book tells the story of the rise, fall and rebirth of this peculiar LA neighbourhood. Actually, the golden age of Laurel Canyon lies very much in the past. During the 60’s a group of musicians took residence there, mainly because of cheap rent and convenient location. One after the other, they started churning out hit songs, thus attracting more musicians and hangers on.
Among the musicians mentioned are Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Still & Nash, “Mama” Cass and Frank Zappa. Their heydays was at the end of the hippy era, when famous people could still live in LA without locking their doors.

Unfortunately, their fame started to attract weirdoes of all type and from 1969 things took a turn for the worst, especially after the notorious Manson murders. Paranoia increased as did drug consumption. Drug dealers moved into the canyon and the use of cocaine exploded. The 70s seem very much a decadent period, marking “the loss of innocence” of the Canyon. The end of the golden era is marked by the Wonderland murders in 1981, a sleazy, seedy episode involving porn “star” John Holmes.

I am not especially a fan of the “canyon sound”, but I found this reportage interesting, albeit dispassionate. Apparently nowadays the canyon is inhabited mainly by regular johns who meet once a year to take a group photo. Safe and sound and reminiscing of the past glory.
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This is a briskly moving and well-researched history of Laurel Canyon, a district of Los Angeles whose name - like Bloomsbury, Algonquin or Berkeley - stands for a time, a style and a genre: in this case, early 70s, post-hippie, folk-pop as exemplified by the output of artists like Jackson Browne, The Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Joni Mitchell, Love, The Mamas & The Papas and The Eagles. Its zeitgeist has been crystallized forever in two moments (both of which are described in lengthy detail here): Crosby, Stills and Nash singing together for the first time ever in the house of Cass Elliot (who'd brought them together because she thought that they'd sound good), and Graham Nash writing "Our House", that hymn to countercultural domesticity, at the piano which he and Joni Mitchell shared in her cottage in the canyon.

The author does a good job at telling the story of the place and the people, concentrating not only on the music (which has already been covered extensively in Barney Hoskyns' Waiting for the Sun: Strange Days, Weird Scenes and the Sound of Los Angeles, and - more directly - his Hotel California: Singer-songwriters and Cocaine Cowboys in the L.A. Canyons 1967-1976) but also subsidiary topics such as the role of women (as artists or groupies), the changing drug scene (the replacement of marijuana by cocaine as the drug of choice is linked to the appearance of a new degree of selfishness and violence), the important clubs down in the flatlands (including the Troubadour, Whisky A-Go-Go, Roxy and Rainbow), and the events which brought the curtain down on a so-called golden era (including the Manson murders and the Altamont festival - which I already knew about - and the Wonderland Avenue murders - which I didn't).

Besides including a few of the well-known dramatis personae such as Graham Nash and Henry Diltz, his interviewees include more peripheral characters such as Sally Stevens, a record company executive who describes a harrowing but illuminating encounter with Jim Morrison while she was working as a waitress. On the whole, it's a well-written account which steers clear of cliche and solecism (although I think the author might be unfamiliar with the Stations of the Cross, given the rather peculiar way he employs it as a metaphor on pp131 & 182), and provides some interesting insights into the history of a location, some of the figures associated with it, and the important things they did.
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on 3 March 2012
As other reviewers have said, this is an authoritative history of the shifting Laurel Canyon community over the last 40 years, with cameos by many of the superstars of the West Coast music scene of the late 60's and early 70's. However, what I was hoping for in this book was greater depth of research on the creation of the music itself with perhaps a more thorough "Rock Family Tree" depiction of the many overlapping careers and lineups in those few years of intense creativity. The book takes Laurel Canyon quite literally as its subject rather than as a metaphor for the broader California music scene from Haight Ashbury to Hotel California. In the end this gets the story bogged down in the addictions and excesses of some people you've heard of and many more that you haven't. I did enjoy the early chapters until it all became a bit claustrophobic, at which point it left me wishing that the narrative had stopped at the bedroom door a few more times and had pushed open the recording studio door at least once. Maybe I should have read Barney Hoskyns's 'Hotel California: Singer-songwriters and Cocaine Cowboys in the L.A. Canyons 1967-1976' instead, although that could be more of the same.
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on 16 April 2009
Great book of musical and social history,and unusual in that it only covers one district of a city,eevn one as bloated and sprawling as LA.So, such stalwarts of the LA scene as the Doors,Canned Heat and Love are either ignored or mentioned in passing only.
The meat of the book are chapters on such Laurel Canyon residents as Frank Zappa,Joni Mitchell,CSNY,the Byrds Buffalo Springfield and Cass Elliot.Lots of fascinating and scurrilous stories about their music,their lives(an deaths)and their interrelationships are here.
The deterioration of the Canyon,and more generally the West Coast music scene by sex'n'drugs'n'rock'n'roll,eventually ending up with a commercial porn industry,is summed up in a brilliant description of a brush and forest fire in the Canyon in 1979.He draws quasi-biblical analogies,as the fire purges the canyon of the drugged,the alcoholic,the adulterers and the fornicators.
Great fun all round,recommended for fans of 1960s-70s West Coast music and/or 20th century US social history.
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on 12 June 2015
Good read, falls off int he second half but then he genuinely runs out of material, because of such a packed and frenetic first half. Well worth the read if you have any interest at all in the Californian music scene of the 60's, or the over the top music scene of the '70's
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on 21 January 2014
Wow!this book is so is packed full of so much information of what went on in LA's early music scene by the people who were there.ive learnt so much.makes me wish i could've been there!highly recommend.
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