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

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  988 ratings  ·  110 reviews
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 Canyo ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Faber & Faber (first published May 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Kurt Reichenbaugh
I've been listening to this book in my car to and from work and found it interesting for the most part. I'm not a big fan of CSN, The Byrds, Joni Mitchell and the gang from the L.A. mid-sixties folk/rock scene, but do appreciate their place in pop-culture history. There is some padding in the book, with asides about Altamont, Woodstock, Charles Manson, cocaine and Led Zeppelin groupies. Groupies as a whole do not make for interesting subject matter and the ones sourced for this book seem to have ...more
Liz Wollman
Midway through "Laurel Canyon," I realized that I was reading the literary equivalent of a VH1 "Behind the Music" episode: It's fun and breezy and there are lots of famous people mentioned, but after a while you realize that it's fairly poorly constructed and that there's no there there. The book is purportedly a profile of a neighborhood in which lots of incredibly creative musicians--Joni Mitchell, CSN, Frank Zappa, Jackson Browne, the Eagles, the Mamas and the Papas--lived and worked, but the ...more
Kim Fay
What I enjoyed most about this was book was how it put the legendary Laurel Canyon music scene in context – not necessarily within the world at large, but within itself. The evolution of, and (in more detail) the demise of, the brief, geographically-confined era that gave the world some of its most beautiful folk/rock music is explored in a variety of interesting ways. Walker focuses on the scene through numerous lenses, from groupies to drugs (the latter particularly well-done for its look at w ...more
I really enjoyed this, even though I wasn't familiar with about half the players (record execs, mostly.) It follows the history of the canyon from about The Byrds in the early 60s to the Wonderland murders in 1979, with a teeny bit about 80s and 90s. It was so decedent, now I am interested in learning more about the groupies, from Pamela des Barre to Sable Starr. I can't wait to carve out some time to listen to my Joni Mitchell and CSNY albums again. Hey did you know Peter Tork was a party anima ...more
Brad Goldberg
I drive through Laurel Canyon everyday and I have a new appreciation of what an amazing history it has. I loved reading about the musicians that gravitated here. It's a quick read and thoroughly enjoyable. If you have a chance to read THE WRECKING CREW as well, they make terrific companion pieces.
A fascinating disjointed tangential history

Other reviews have said the same however it bears repeating: this book sounds as if it was written in a one benzidrine field session with Rogers thesaurus used at least twice every paragraph.

It had moments of brilliance but then the author woiod invariably go off on an unrelated tangent.

There were many stories and anecdotes that simply abruptly which is unfortunate as Walker is a good story teller.

For me as a Gen X'er, the music was the drumbeat of my
Michael Walker has written an engaging narrative about hallowed rock and roll geography. Like many histories of a cultural era, momentum gathers and crests early and the rest of the book reads more as a post-mortem. Still, the voices ring out clear, particularly those of the less famous denizens of the canyon. The comments of more famous residents seem to be culled from other published sources rather than from interview with Walker. Walker includes more voices of women than is usual in accounts ...more
The problem for me with this book is that so little of it is actually about Laurel Canyon and its residents, there are a few big names that author Michael Walker barely even mentions and notable albums, such as Jackie DeShannon's album Laurel Canyon (which was even named after the place!) is only namechecked because its cover in is the famous Country Store. I realise that context is important, and believe me there is plenty of that in here, but at one point the author actually needlessly goes in ...more
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
While I liked the content material of the book and the stories involved I thought the vocabulary was way too high for the average reader. How wonderful this book would have been if it was written so you could devour the tales and imagine the comings and goings of all the stars as they traveled through their lives in Laurel Canyon. Instead, you needed a dictionary beside you or just glossed over fancy words hoping to get the gist of it. But I doubt that was the author's intention. What author wri ...more
David Schwan
Apr 20, 2013 David Schwan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kathy
A fascinating look at the LA music scene from the early 1960's through the end of the 1970's. I initially saw this book at the Getty Center in LA. This book provided reference material for an exhibit at the Getty on the LA music scene.

While the book "Summer of Love" by Joel Selvin covers San Francisco's Haight Ashbury neighborhood, this book covers Los Angele's Laurel Canyon. Many notable people lived in Laurel Canyon including Jodi Mitchell, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Frank Zappa. The author
I liked it but I've read a few books now on this topic and topics like it and you're basically reading it for gossip on musicians and celebs although in this one it's not so much gossip as the feeling of the Laurel Canyon area and how it transformed and morphed over the decades into something different and yet, pretty much the same. The biggest changes for Laurel Canyon and Los Angeles in general were the Manson murders and cocaine. After those introductions everything had a different tone. It's ...more
Bruce Snell
I read in another review that this book was mostly gossip - that would have been an improvement. It turned out that this was mostly a look at the sociology of LA in the '60s and '70s. That was an era when some of the best rock music of the last several decades was produced, but instead of a book about the music and the musicians who produced it, we were treated to a shallow look at the culture of the time. Not really worth the time it takes to read it unless you are seeking an advanced degree in ...more
I read this book when it first came out and gave it four stars. After re-reading it, I'm upping it to five stars. Fantastic history of the canyon that served as a home for bohemians and artists. The book ends in 2004 with some optimism. I was in Laurel Canyon two years ago and it was bumper to bumper traffic (people literally couldn't pull out of their garages) and the rents and costs for homes astronomical. The exact opposite of what the area was for so many years. But the book is well written ...more
Marxist Monkey
Read as background for a current paper project. This is mostly a celebrity group bio. It turns out that lots of groovy people lived in Laurel Canyon and they did a lot of coke which fucked them up big time. Gosh. I seriously doubt that anyone I know would be tempted to read this. But if you are, don't. Look at Barney Hoskins' Waiting for the Sun instead.
As an almost 60 native Angeleno and music photographer this was my backyard. Though I was just barely too young to be there at the inception my older cousins were right there and snuck me in & around whenever possible.
This lays out the very groove of the scene.

I more or less grew up on the music of the Laurel Canyon and though I know the CSN(Y) catalog by heart, I didn't really know much about the history of the music and the artists, and so I found this book incredibly engaging. Though it was a bit of a fluff read, it was really fascinating to me. This book might be boring if you don't already have an emotional connection to the music. It's also kind of depressing - the beginning of the artistic movement in Laurel Canyon is so inspirational and reall
A spooky read that traces the rise and fall of what used to be one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Los Angeles. In many respects it parallels the evolution of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. In the 60s it's all peace and love and grooy vibes. Joni Mitchell is shacking with Graham Nash, writing ballads about "The Canyon", assorted characters from the Byrds, the Buffalo Springfield, the Stone Ponies, the Eagles and other laid back LA country folk types are lounging around getting high and li ...more
Patty Brandl
The first part of "Laurel Canyon:An Inside Look at Rock and Roll's Legendary Neighborhood," was a treasure trove of information, rock gossip and a nostalgic stroll through the music scene created in the 1960s and 1970s and the people who created it. If I could break the book into segments, I would give the first half five stars. Unfortunately the second half fell off so quickly, and the author seemed to run out of steam. This part I would give one star (being generous). But the thing that upset ...more
Michael Walker delves into the Los Angeles music scene of the 1960s/1970s based out of the Laurel Canyon neighborhood and gives us a lively history of bands, musicians, groupies, managers, record company employees, music venues and other subjects hooked into this wild scene from the era. I'm a music history nerd--especially rock music--so, I'm an easy mark for this one. If you like The Byrds, Frank Zappa [although I wanted more about Zappa in this], Crosby Stills and Nash, Jackson Browne and the ...more
Careless and pointless retelling of the Los Angeles country/rock n roll scene in the 1960's and 1970's, which centered around a group of singer-songwriters (Joni Mitchell, Stephen Stills, John Phillips, et al.) taking residence in the rundown cabins of Laurel Canyon, a neighborhood north of Hollywood in the hills. The author's argument is that Laurel Canyon's free and hippie-ish environment nurtured and inspired an entire generation of music and changed the course of the popular music business. ...more
I expected this to be only about Laurel Canyon in the late 60s/early 70s, but it's really more about the music business in L.A. from the late 60s to the 90s, including punk rock, glam, and hip-hop. Lots of interesting info about businesses on the Sunset Strip and the groupies who followed the bands.
I'm pretty obsessed with the 60's & 70's and early 80's era. This book definitely brought me back to those times of rock n roll and all that went along with it. The book was a bit of a difficult read as it did go back and forth a few times. From Zappa pioneering counterculture without drugs, to the massive amounts of debauchery that did go on.
I feel the book was poorly constructed and was confusing at times. It took a while for me to get through it, but the middle was the easiest.

As a New
For pop-culture hounds, this book is indispensable. I mean, other than Abbey Road and Haight-Ashbury, Laurel Canyon is one of the seminal 60s and 70s petri dishes of hippie culture. The author explains in detail the Mecca of SoCal hippiedom, and does it with the precision Occam's Razor, such that all the myth and starry-eyed fandom is removed. What's left is the reality of a place that, while immortalized by both fans and stars, in reality is a dangerous, out-dated, over-priced, criminal-infeste ...more
Russ Bertetta
a disappointment. Reading a book by a music critic is like reading the liner notes of a greatest hits album-but for 200+ pages. How many times can you use the word "zeitgeist" for example. Extended parts about the Altamont Concert and Woodstock, although relevant to a degree, where too long and really did not enhance the narrative. The same is true for the section on glam rock. Enough already on Frank Zappa.
For those who continue to debate whether San Francisco or Los Angeles was the epicenter of 60s music, Michael Walker provides the answer. He skillfully paints a multidimensional mural of a fabled time period. Walker uses the unique perspective of a location as metaphysical as it is geographic to describe the musical culture of the 60s and 70s. The magic of those years is deftly captured in Walker's words. He leads us through the twists and turns the canyon takes in the 80s, portraying a location ...more
This was a very entertaining book about California musicians and the industry in the 60's and 70's. This counterculture revolution was very well relayed.

However, the critiques of this book are just, the author seems to be one pretentious mofo. I can't give this book more than 3 stars.
A wonderful book about a neighborhood and an era. Laurel canyon in Los Angeles was a place where musicians like Zappa, Crosby Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Eagles and many others called home beginning in the 1960's. The writer describes this place and its people well. The book is also a journey through pop culture history as we read about how rock n roll develops from innocence in mid 1960's through dram stage of late 1960's on to the creative excess of the 1970's and finally c ...more
Lisa Findley
I loved this book for the anecdotes and the information on the LA music scene in the late 60s/early 70s, which is of course the time I should have been in my early 20s instead of now. Any time Walker tried to do some deeper analysis of the times or the impact of the music on the broader culture and future generations, he floundered, but that's not what I came for so I skimmed past those parts and went straight to the stories about the Whisky-a-Go-Go and Zappa's house.

(Oh, but damn you, Joni Mitc
I got a real feel for the atmosphere of Laurel Canyon based on this book and Pamela Des Barres Memoirs.
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Michael Walker is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter, author and journalist. His national bestseller,LAUREL CANYON: THE INSIDE STORY OF ROCK AND ROLL'S LEGENDARY NEIGHBORHOOD (Farrar Straus and Giroux), is in its eleventh printing and has spent seven months on the Los Angeles Times Book Review's bestseller list and continues to receive worldwide acclaim.

More about Michael Walker...
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