Laurel Canyon The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood

Michael Walker

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

304 Pages



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In the late sixties and early seventies, an impromptu collection of musicians colonized a eucalyptus-scented canyon deep in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles and melded folk, rock, and savvy American pop into a sound that conquered the world as thoroughly as the songs of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had before them. Thirty years later, the music made in Laurel Canyon continues to pour from radios, iPods, and concert stages around the world. During the canyon's golden era, the musicians who lived and worked there scored dozens of landmark hits, from "California Dreamin'" to "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" to "It's Too Late," selling tens of millions of records and resetting the thermostat of pop culture.

In Laurel Canyon, Michael Walker tells story of this unprecedented gathering of some of the baby boom's leading musical lights—including Joni Mitchell; Jim Morrison; Crosby, Stills, and Nash; John Mayall; the Mamas and the Papas; Carole King; the Eagles; and Frank Zappa, to name just a few—who turned Los Angeles into the music capital of the world and forever changed the way popular music is recorded, marketed, and consumed.


Praise for Laurel Canyon

"[A]n exhaustively researched and richly anecdotal book that will fascinate both rock aficionados and cultural historians . . . Laurel Canyon proves a strong addition to the . . . literature [of the '60s] . . . The author really does make you believe that, for a few short years in a hidden part of Los Angeles, the '60s were a place as much as they were a dream."—Stephen Amidon, Salon

"Laurel Canyon is hilarious and true and bittersweet. Michael Walker catches the mood in the air, and gets it right . . . the interviews are wonderful . . . it's a beautifully-written document of that time and place when the personalities were as big as those stony dreams that fueled some of the greatest masterpieces in rock."—Cameron Crowe, Oscar-winning writer/director of Almost Famous

"Laurel Canyon captures all the magic and lyricism of an almost mythological geographical spot in the history of pop music. The book lovingly limns the story of a more melodious time in rock and roll where the great talents of the 60s and 70s cloistered together in a sort of enchanted valley populated by an all-star cast of characters, including Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, Mama Cass and Brian Wilson."—Stephen Gaines, author of Philistines at the Hedgerow

"In Laurel Canyon, rock and roll history is urban history, California history, American history, global history through the songs and scandals coming from a canyon on the coast of dreams running through the labyrinthine center of our times."—Kevin Starr, Professor of History, University of Southern California and author of Coast of Dreams: California on the Edge

"Walker recalls, mostly sweetly, the famed breeding ground for the L.A. cool that pervaded late-1960s American rock. He offers candid, insightful glimpses of Frank Zappa's bizarre, brief tenure in early cowboy movie star Tom Mix's old log cabin; the jangly social and musical interaction of the Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Joni Mitchell; the rise of the singer-songwriter marketing label; and the scourge of casual cocaine abuse that pervaded the era and, soon, much of the rest of Woodstock Nation . . . [H]e is pretty comprehensive about a pivotal place and time in American rock . . . the book valuably accounts for how, with the rise of the Eagles and their bland, strictly commercial ilk, the term mellow lost its luster as a pop-music descriptor."—Mike Tribby, Booklist

"Pop culture journalist Walker has written a fascinating study of the Los Angeles neighborhood in which he lives and its relationship to developments in American popular music in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Throughout, Walker makes a strong case for Laurel Canyon being at least as important as San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury in defining the sound of pop music. Beginning with the Mamas and the Papas's California Dreamin' and continuing through the work of Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Frank Zappa, the Eagles, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Laurel Canyon is associated with pop, rock, the singer-songwriter movement, and the birth of country rock. Walker discusses the neighborhood itself, the rock'n'roll way of life, and the music in a relaxed, clear style, drawing on published accounts of the various personalities involved . . . [E]xcellent . . . Highly recommended."—Library Journal

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from Laurel Canyon by Michael Walker Copyright © 2006 by Michael Walker. Published in May 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


In 1968 a British pop star and the refugees...

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  • Michael Walker

  • Michael Walker has written extensively about popular culture for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, and other publications. He lives in Laurel Canyon.

  • Michael Walker
    Michael Walker