MONDAY, APRIL 6, 2015
WEEK 14: LA SINGER SONGWRITERS
In 1969, as the Manson killings signaled the end of the hippie dream, such was the ugliness, confusion and fear in Los Angeles that there was a mass retreat to the hills and canyons surrounding Hollywood. Laurel Canyon in particular was a place where the survivors of the Sunset Strip’s halcyon days had always chilled out in rambling, split level cabins with their cats and dope. The Mama’s And Papas Cass Elliott defined the canyon spirit, operating a permanent open house policy while pursuing her love of opiates. Jackie De Shannon’s Laurel Canyon album not only celebrated rocks new haven in the hills, but also marked the coming of age of the singer songwriter.
The canyon aristocracy of solo performers really began when Gene Clark and David Crosby left The Byrds. By the time Buffalo Springfield collapsed under the weight of Stephen Stills and Neil Young’s bickering, going solo had become almost de-rigueur. The first time the record industry took any notice was in June 1969 when Crosby, Stills & Graham Nash released their self-titled debut. Three singer songwriters who had formed a loose triad to record their own material, they fitted perfectly with emerging solo talents like Young, Joni Mitchell, ex production line tunesmiths Jimmy Webb and Carole King and the starry-eyed hopefuls hanging out at Doug Weston’s Troubadour Club.
At the tail end of 1971, the LA record industry was a very different beast to the one it had been four years before when countless managers, musicians and all round hustlers had gravitated west in search of gold. David Geffen and Elliot Roberts were two Jewish New Yorker’s who had wormed their way into the Laurel Canyon inner circle, set up Asylum Records, and pilfered the Troubadour for Jackson Browne, Ned Doheny, J.D. Souther and four regulars; Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner who had banded together as the Eagles.
From the start they set out to sell a million records by replacing country’s natural soulfulness with a deliberate, radio friendly, pop sheen. The Eagles marked the end of the innocence, a move away from artistic expression to album oriented, corporate rock, made immeasurably worse when Geffen, who would happily have dived into a pool of shit to retrieve a dollar, forged a singer songwriter/country rock axis that seized control of the American recording industry. When 1975 came around, Los Angeles was a shattered, stagnant place, the canyons rife with cocaine and an insular decadence.
While the elite had all the money, drugs and playthings they’d ever wanted, the one thing they didn’t have was the sense of community that had once sustained them. Jackson Browne for one felt a failed sense of promise, but it was the Eagles Don Henley who most recognised the latent creepiness at the heart of Hollywood hedonism. Despite being a major part of the problem, his grandiose, semi conceptual Hotel California symbolised the death of the dream. In typical seventies fashion, the canyons that had once represented a movement for change and social justice had become just another part of the morally corrupt entertainment vortex.
01 THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS ‘Safe In My Garden’ (Papas & Mamas LP May 1968)
02 FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS ‘Hot Burrito #1’ (The Gilded Palace Of Sin LP March 1969)
03 CROSBY, STILLS & NASH ‘You Don’t Have To Cry’ (Crosby, Stills & Nash LP June 1969)
04 JACKIE DESHANNON ‘Laurel Canyon’ (Laurel Canyon LP September 1969)
05 JAMES TAYLOR ‘Fire And Rain’ (Sweet Baby James LP March 1970)
06 JOHN PHILLIPS ‘Malibu People’ (John The Wolfking Of LA LP June 1970)
07 JIMMY WEBB ‘P.F. Sloan’ (Words And Music LP November 1970)
08 CAROLE KING ‘So Far Away’ (Tapestry LP November 1970)
09 CRAZY HORSE ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’ (Crazy Horse LP January 1971)
10 DAVID CROSBY ‘Orleans’ (If I Could Only Remember My Name LP February 1971)
11 JONI MITCHELL ‘California’ (Blue LP June 1971)
12 JUDEE SILL ‘Jesus Was A Crossmaker’ (Judee Sill LP October 1971)
13 JACKSON BROWNE ‘Rock Me On The Water’ (Jackson Browne LP January 1972)
14 J.D. SOUTHER ‘Jesus In Three Quarters Time’ (John David Souther LP August 1972)
15 NED DOHENY ‘Postcards From Hollywood’ (Ned Doheny LP May 1973)
16 GRAM PARSONS & THE FALLEN ANGELS ‘In My Hour Of Darkness’ (Grievous Angel LP January 1974)
17 ESSRA MOHAWK ‘Full Fledged Woman’ (Essra Mohawk LP May 1974)
18 NEIL YOUNG ‘Revolution Blues’ (On The Beach LP August 1974)
19 GENE CLARK ‘From A Silver Phial’ (No Other LP October 1974)
20 LINDA RONSTADT ‘Willin’ (Heart Like A Wheel LP November 1974)
21 THE EAGLES ‘Hotel California’ (Hotel California LP December 1976)