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.
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. This book should make an excellent addition to any public or university library's popular culture collection. Owing to some of the frank discussion of the lifestyle of the time, secondary school librarians will probably want to preview. Highly recommended.-James E. Perone, Mount Union Coll., Alliance, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Beginning in the mid-1960s, a string of successful rock bands emerged out of Laurel Canyon, a neighborhood of Los Angeles tucked away in the hills north of Sunset Boulevard. From the success of bands like the Byrds and the Mamas and the Papas, and singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Jimmy Webb, Walker proposes Laurel Canyon as rock's answer to Jazz Age Paris. It's a plausible concept, but one he stumbles to elaborate past the length of a magazine feature. The journalist, who lives in Laurel Canyon, delivers strong material on some of the musicians he cites, particularly in early chapters about Crosby, Stills & Nash and Frank Zappa, but offers little about other equally significant acts. Instead, he pads the story with lengthy sections on groupies and the music scene in other parts of the city, the Altamont concert (which was hundreds of miles away) and a digression on the history of cocaine. Furthermore, his enthusiasm for the Laurel Canyon legend leads to shaky critical pronouncements. If "the folk stars of the early 1960s were the first rock stars," for example, then what was Elvis? 8 pages of b&w photos. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
"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"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