Thursday, March 12, 2009
Book Review - Laurel Canyon. The inside story of rock n' roll's legendary neighborhood
Title: Laurel Canyon, The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood
Author: Michael Walker
When rock music was young and yet to be infiltrated by hard drugs, MBA’s and big BIG money, there was a hippie enclave holed up in the hills and valleys behind the Sunset Stripe in Los Angles. After the Beatles came in and decimated the musical landscape, numerous artists on the verge of fantastic success congregated in the Laurel Canyon area – buying inexpensive homes with proximity to the developing music center of Southern California. Included in this cavalcade of rising stars were the Byrds, Joni Mitchell & Graham Nash, Frank Zappa, Mama Cass Elliott, Neil Young, Jackson Brown, The Eagles and others. The Doors hailed from Venice Beach which was across town and a million miles away. In his tell-all-book Michael Walker talks about the unique artist community that lived on Laurel Canyon road in central Los Angles.
The book recounts how Cass Elliott brought together Graham Nash (of the Hollies) with Stephen Stills (of Buffalo Springfield) and David Crosby (of the Byrds) in her living room, “…she pulls up in this convertible Porsche. I got in and she drove me up Laurel Canyon to this house” says Nash. ‘Waiting there were Stills and Crosby, who sang for Nash the Stills composition, ‘You Don’t Have to Cry.’ “That was a moment that is indelibly etched on my soul,” Nash recalled.
Walker is sure to dish the dirt including Robert Plant’s (Led Zeppelin) fancy for 16 year old groupies and the, ‘L.A. Queens’ that catered to, “provide the fulfillment of fantasies of these men [who] were older than me” recalls Morgan Welch. Walker recalls the now infamous, ‘Riot at the Hyatt’ hotel on Sunset Strip and the debauchery that seemed to go on nightly as rock bands target Los Angles for much needed breaks from the road.
Walker talks about Charles Manson getting thrown out by Gail Zappa and his suspected reasons for the murdering Leno & Rosemary LaBianca and Sharon Tate. “Sally Stevens, an L.A. record executive who lived on Lookout Mountain at the time, recalls, ‘I was kind of wandering about this party and there was a door slightly open and I could see people sitting in a circle. There was a candle in the middle of the floor, and there was this guy sitting in the corner. He was kind of holding forth to everyone and they were all sitting like a bunch of sheep. And as I looked in the door, he said, ‘Come in, come in.’ I just got a bad feeling from him and said, ‘No, that’s okay.’ Later on, when they arrested Manson, I went, God, that’s the guys.”
As cocaine overtook marijuana as the drug of choice, Laurel Canyon’s innocence fell away behind a shroud of paranoia and the onslaught of Glam Rock. “A young misfit named Frank Ferrana, at the time being a transient being raised at the Sunset Tower apartment building on the strip, was obsessed with the Sweet’s vocalist, Brian Connolly, and why, among other matters, Connolly had, ‘bangs that curled under,’ Ferrana would change his name to Nikki Sixx and found Motley Crue…”
To lift from Charles Dickens, ‘it was the best of times’ and the future was tomorrow rather than yesterday. This is an easy read that is fun, packed with lots of known music names of when innocence was the norm and baby-boomer youths were hitting their teens and early 20’s. Yes, its fun. No, it’s not explicit. And best of all, the Omaha Public Library has it on hand…so it is free!