I haven’t been reticent in telling you about the concerts I’ve enjoyed this past season and by now it should be clear that whenever possible I enjoy a bit of nostalgia mixed in to round out the experience. There are particular periods in my musical memory that I have always found intriguing, and this summer I was able to really jump into one of those periods by way of a very interesting and entertaining exhibit that opened earlier this year at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles.
I previously mentioned how much fun it was to meet one of the local Disc Jockeys I listened to throughout my teen years. The more I mused over the memories of my “radio days” I recognized that my curiosity about the story behind people, places and events has always been a part of my entertainment. Wouldn’t I have enjoyed blogging in the 1960’s!
The music associated with Laurel Canyon, represented by many of my favorite artists, isn’t just the songs I heard on the radio, but a much larger story that has fascinated me for decades. My bookshelves show my interest with several volumes specifically dedicated to the Laurel Canyon artists of the 1960’s and 1970’s and the mystique that continues to surround this particularly unique portion of the Hollywood Hills.
The exhibit does not allow for photography, so unfortunately I can’t show you Jim Morrison’s writing chair, Frank Zappa’s drumhead, Mama Cass Elliot’s hand-painted chair, or dozens of amazing Harry Diltz and Graham Nash photos from that era. According to Michael Walker’s “Laurel Canyon, The Inside Story of Rock-and Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood,” Laurel Canyon is described as where “Pot and sympathy at Cass Elliot’s, Crosby, Stills and Nash in the living room, Eric Clapton in the backyard, [and] California dreaming’ becomes a reality.”
Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Carole King, Judy Collins, Glenn Frey and Don Henley of the Eagles, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees and John and Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas as well as Jim Morrison and other members of the Doors all called Laurel Canyon home during Laurel Canyon’s golden era.
One of my favorite photos is Joni Mitchell at her Laurel Canyon bungalow, the inspiration for Graham Nash’s “Our House,” the home they shared together “with two cats in the yard.”
I didn’t know about Laurel Canyon when I was a teen, but it wasn’t unusual to hear stories about the artists playing in the Los Angeles area, and although I didn’t know anything substantive about the private lives of these 60’s music rock stars, the mystique surrounding the Whiskey A Go-Go on the Sunset Strip and other night clubs just down the hill from Laurel Canyon was common knowledge–the local Dee-Jays kept those stories front and center.
Here’s a little piece of trivia you may not know. In November 1966 Buffalo Springfield started playing as the house band at Whisky a Go-Go. Huge crowds of teens congregated on the Strip in order to be a part of the vibrant and exciting psychedelic era music scene. When local residents began demanding a curfew the teens protested the curfew, and fueled by announcements from local rock radio stations thousands of teens flocked to Sunset Boulevard.
The protest erupted with demonstrators clashing with police, and Buffalo Springfield band member Stephen Stills composed “For What It’s Worth,” not as an anti-war song as it is typically regarded, but in response to the “Sunset Strip riots.”
“California Dreamin': The Sounds of Laurel Canyon” continues until the end of November and if you’re in the Los Angeles vicinity I think you’d thoroughly enjoy stepping back into a musically rich era and seeing some of today’s still wonderfully prolific and entertaining artists captured in photos with expressions of youthful exuberance.
I can’t share the photos, but I can send you on a tour. Ray Manzarek and Bobby Krieger of the Doors have a blog tour you might find interesting. You can hop on board the bus right HERE. This is just a very short tour of “Love Street,” where Morrison and his girlfriend Pamela Courson lived in Laurel Canyon. Parts of the home are still there, but a fire, new owners and more than four decades have erased all but the nostalgia.
If you have as strong an interest in the music and the stories of the 60’s as I do, you might enjoy this rather extensive look at Laurel Canyon history. Access the wealth of stories HERE and you’ll be able to answer any possible Jeopardy questions related to Laurel Canyon and the music of the 60’s and 70’s.
Next time I’m in the area I’ll stop and take a few photos of the “old neighborhood.” Once a year , Laurel Canyon residents gather at the Canyon Country Store for a portrait–without the countercultural “loitering and countless drug deals in the parking lot.” At least that’s what I hear!