Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Laurel Canyon


There have been a number of Laurel Canyon documentaries – all about the music scene in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s when it was a mecca of emerging musicians and the drug capital of Southern California. 

 

Residents included the Mama’s & the Papa’s, the Byrds, the Doors, Frank Zappa, the Monkees, Turtles, Joni Mitchell, Buffalo Springfield, Love, and later Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Love, Linda Rondstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Brown, and the Eagles.  Oh… and Steve Martin. 

 

It was an idyllic period where everyone knew everyone else, they all would hang out together – usually at Mama Cass’ house, and I believe everyone also slept with everyone else (certainly Michelle Phillips did).  Together they all made incredible music that has stood the test of time some 50 years later.  (But it’s the sleeping with everyone that I really envy.)

 

Like I said, there have been several documentaries about the period.   As recent as a year ago there was ECHO INTHE CANYON.  I’m a sucker for any film about the LA music scene of that era so I’m glad I saw it, but half of it was filled with bullshit Jakob Dylan interviews, current singers doing covers of classic hits of the era, and no mention of the drugs and death that spelled the end of “Guitaralot.”   It also didn’t make much mention of Joni Mitchell, which is like talking about the British Music Revolution and forgetting the Rolling Stones. 

 

Happily, there’s a new Laurel Canyon documentary that is flat out sensational.  It’s filled with home movies, raw footage, fascinating stories, and interviews so extensive that even I knew one of subjects personally.  There’s no narrator – none is needed.  But they do a beautiful job of conveying what was great about the music, the people, the period, and the nearby Sunset Strip scene.  

 

They also don’t sugarcoat the period.  Things turn dark.  Drugs, the dangers of success, in some cases deaths (Jim Morrison, Mama Cass), reverberations from the Manson murders, and the turbulent world (a war we never should have been in, mass demonstrations, the National Guard, a crook for a president – sound familiar?) all contribute to the downfall of the era. 

 

All of that is the good news.  And it’s several hours long.   But here’s the bad:  It’s on Epix.  Who the hell gets Epix?  Hopefully it will go to Netflix or Hulu or any platform most people can get.  Keep an eye out for it.  When it does come along, check it out.   And when you do, you’ll notice interviews with LA dj, Jim Ladd.  He was on KLOS in the early ‘70s playing all of those albums and artists.  Actually, I was playing them.  I was his engineer. 

 

32 comments :

J. Allison said...

You were Jim Ladd's engineer? That's awesome! KMET was the soundtrack to my high school life: Jim Ladd, Mary Turner, Jack Snyder, Jeff Gonzer. Good times.

Lemuel said...

I remember a dog of a movie called LAUREL CANYON from 2000. The director seemed determined to stay in THE NOW and leave out all that hippie stuff. So how do we meet Francis McDormand's character? Sitting in a room with a band, passing a joint around,listening to 1972 Steely Dan.

Mike Barer said...

Don't forget, we also have an amazing Rock Heritage in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

There were two major omissions in Echo in the Canyon.
The first was, as you say, the self-destructive nature of the musicians thru drugs. The music was great. It should have been better.
People like John Phillips, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Brian Wilson should have had decades long productivity.

The second was not even a mention of the Wrecking Crew (I think Hal Blaine got a cameo). One reason, a major reason, the music was great was because of all these studio cats.

hopefully, this movie will mention them.

VP81955 said...

I hope it didn't neglect Jackie DeShannon, who fits in so many camps of the LA music scene -- from the girl-group sound of the early '60s to the Laurel Canyon sound (she wrote the Byrds' "Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe") to pop and country -- that we tend to forget she was there, and producing so much. (Her lack of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is absurd.) IIRC, didn't she make an album titled "Laurel Canyon"?

Monkeefan88 said...

I loved it, especially the first episode..
I was kind of hoping for a mention of Michael Nesmith during episode 2 when the got into the early days of country rock,all the usual bands that normally get mentioned during a discussion like that got mentioned and although Mike didn't live in laurel canyon during those days he was connected (sort of) thru the monkees and like I said a mention would of been nice in that context as he was ahead of every one of those bands... At least they name checked him as the writer of different drum when they got to Linda

Vrej said...

I just checked and in Canada, we get this on a popular and easy-to-get streaming service, Crave.
Thanks for putting this on my radar, will definitely check it out.

Gary said...

I watched part 1 and thought it was fantastic, so I couldn't wait for the premiere of part 2. But I was very disappointed in the second part; I thought it was very boring and dragged in several places. Overall though, the whole thing was well worth seeing.

Curt Alliaume said...

I worked on Jim Ladd's book Radio Waves: Life And Revolution On The FM Dial in 1991. Unfortunately, I neglected to actually keep a copy; it's pretty hard to find today.

Mike Doran said...

Tying Things Together:

Your reference to "everybody sleeping with each other" brings to mind the single biggest audience laugh ever from Night Court (which was always pretty funny anyway).

Details are evading me, but what the hey; what follows is approximate:

Dan Fielding is being visited by a sweet innocent niece, who takes a liking to Bull - and goes out on a date with him.
The next morning, Dan goes looking for the niece, ultimately coming to Bull's apartment.
Dan knocks, and Bull answers - wearing a robe and socks.

DAN (concerned):
Please tell me you didn't sleep with her …

BULL (grinning broadly):
Naaah … we just had sex!


As I said above, BIG laugh from the audience (and from me at home).

Me for you and euphemism!

Moon Mullins said...

"The Mama’s & the Papa’s" -- Icon's of the era! Lot's of group's nowaday's perform cover's of their classic hit's.

Cheryl Marks said...

Hey, I get Epix as part of my evil Comcast - oh I mean Xfinity package. I don't get Netflix because I don't pay for it. For once I seem to be getting access to something of interest. What's this talk about a Tiger King?

Jrandall said...

I actually still have my copy of "radio waves" - complete with dust jacket and copies of some newspaper articles written when it came out! I met B Mitchell Reed while coaching his son's football team in Malibu and KLOS and KMET were the soundtrack of college life in our dorm at Pepperdine (74-78) - I of course being a future Deejay, listened to KTNQ and KHJ - getting MG Kelly to be the host at one of our college dance parties! Music and Radio growing up in So Cal was amazing

Douglas C Brown said...

Have yet to see it but, if the film makers did not include the band LOVE, they cannot be trusted to tell the Laurel Canyon story.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I don't see ECHO IN THE CANYON but there's a two-part doc called LAUREL CANYON, each 78 minutes long. Haven't seen it yet, but I will now. EPIX also has an excellent documentary called RADIO UNNAMEABLE, about New York radio legend Bob Fass. Highly recommended.

Brian Phillips said...

Here is a story that relates to Jim Ladd's old show, "Headsets". It was a program of music that was dreamy and ethereal, better enjoyed if heard with headphones.

My wife and I were pulling into our apartment garage and my wife and I were half-listening to this show and the vocalist lazily sang, "...don't you fug-get me..." and my wife wheeled about with a shocked look of "Did they just say that on the radio!?". We had been married long enough that I said, "For-GET! For-GET!"

This has been a laugh between us for about thirty years.

Troy McClure said...

Nixon was a crook who could still drink a glass of water with one hand. Trump is a crook who has to use his left hand to lift his right hand holding a glass of water to his mouth.

https://youtu.be/NObgJ4RRZ2g

And his supporters say he's a macho tough guy! The very definition of LOL.

Todd Everett said...

Moon Mullins said...

"The Mama’s & the Papa’s" -- Icon's of the era! Lot's of group's nowaday's perform cover's of their classic hit's.

Generated lot's of laugh's in thi's house!

gottacook said...

At least on their first LP (which I own), they WERE the Mama's and the Papa's. Here's a photo:
https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/mamas-and-papas-believe-your-eyes-and-ears/

Anonymous said...

I lived on the West side of Laurel Canyon (8705 Lookout Mt. Dr., still remember) in the late '50s, early "60s. Character actor Vaughn Taylor (Young Lions, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Psycho, Gumball Rally - he worked a lot) was my landlord. Didn't get to see any of the famous musicians, either they hadn't move there yet, or lived on the East side of Laurel and I didn't spend much time at the Country Stores at the bottom. It hadn't been flower painted then. Was great place to live if you worked in Hollywood and until I got married.

Liggie said...

IIRC, when the Mammas and Pappas performed at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, John Phillips refused to stand next to Michelle, so Denny Doherty had to stand between them.

MikeKPa. said...

Agree with your assessment of both documentaries. I tired of Dylan pretty quickly, as if he were guiding us through and the cutaways to his bemused look. Totally different approach with LAUREL CANYON and it was much, much better. I'm still scratching my head on how a niche cable channel like EPIX got it. Would have been perfect on HBO or Netflix, who usually outbids everybody.

Jerry said...

Nobody gets EPIX because their programming socks. This is no exception.

benson said...

I don't know if this video is about Laurel Canyon, but it's fascinating (and free to watch). It's Dee Dee from 60's duo Dick and Dee Dee talking about the area of LA and the Gold Star recording studio that inspired the Buffalo Springfield song.

https://youtu.be/BH9EvqjpulU

Also, Anonymous, i'm one of those geeks that loves stories about the 30 or 40 so character actors that were in just about every major TV production, including Vaughn Taylor, who played multiple roles on Hazel, TAGS, etc. Again, it's probably because I'm not a native of LA, but its just cool imagining him being a landlord. (And the funny thing is, I'm not one who gets starstruck.)

Sean said...

@Liggie

All in my opinion:

From what I've read about John Phillips he would have been better off not making such judgements. VERY difficult family to be a part of. VERY sordid stories about them in the past. VERY sordid stories about Laurel Canyon in the 60s for that matter.

Still, I love Crosby, Stills and Nash songs and Joni Mitchell is a treasure.



Sean

Anne said...

Just saw LAUREL CANYON (as part of Amazon Prime Video--Epix is offering a free trial right now).

Loved it! I was intrigued by the Manson links to the record industry--that angle of the story hasn't been covered much. And wow, being Jim Ladd's engineer--Ken Levine, eyewitness to history!

Anita Bonita said...

Douglas C Brown: Love is ALL over this thing.

Jim Mitchell said...

Following up on Anne's comment, above: go to Amazon Prime Video and search "Laurel Canyon." This doc –– Laurel Canyon Season 1 –– came up at the top of the list for me. It's available on a 7-day free trial of Epix. I have used the trial for other services on Amazon. You'll probably have to give credit card info, but if you cancel before seven days, you shouldn't be charged.

What's the worst that can happen? You forget to cancel and pay $5.99 for a good film... plus whatever else Epix is offering that month.

Storm said...

I've adored Jim Ladd's voice since I was a kid; pretty much all the grown-ups I knew listened to him, especially in their car, so hearing him always reminds me of driving around L.A. in the 70's, being just a little too little to see out the windows (Car seat, schmar schmeat, I wasn't even buckled in!)

When I saw Roger Waters on his "Radio KAOS" tour in '87, I was absolutely shocked that they actually had Jim Ladd touring with them, doing his bits from the album LIVE on stage and not a recording; my friends and I hadn't heard about it, total surprise. SUCH a good show, probably my all-time fave, and it was at the San Diego Sports Arena (SPORTS AROMA!), which had/has notoriously sucktastic acoustics.

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm

bbison said...

Does everyone realize Jim Ladd is still doing free-form radio 5 nights a week,from High in the Hollywood Hills? Sirius XM Deep Tracks, 5p-9p EDT. Still has the pipes and great taste in music.

Pete Grossman said...

Jim Ladd's engineer? Nice!

Susan Isaacs said...

Just watched "Laurel Canyon" and loved it. Well, despite the fact nearly every song put me right back in seventh-grade hell. I was going to watch "Echo in the Canyon" next, but one minute of Jakob Dylan is 59 seconds too much. Thanks for the warning.