If you would have told me back when I was a defiant teenage post-punk fanboy—clad in Doc Martens and a black trench coat festooned with badges of PiL, The Residents, Kraftwerk, Nina Hagen and Throbbing Gristle—that one day I’d go through quite a long “phase” (as my wife calls my penchant for perhaps slightly over-exuberant musical enthusiasms) for the type of music that I HATED MOST when I was a kid, the laid-back, singer-songwriter sounds of the Southern California folk-rock, I would not have believed you.
I’d have (truly) been horrified. To me, there was nothing worse than The Eagles (maybe just “Southern rockers” like Lynyrd Skynyrd or Molly Hatchet) and anything that even vaguely smacked of the So Cal sound was shit to my ears.
Part of it was really getting into Neil Young (which for me happened in 2002, only after I first read Jimmy McDonough’s masterpiece of biography, Shakey, a book I’ve re-read twice in the past year alone), The Flying Burrito Brothers and Joni Mitchell, and then it sort of spread out slowly from there. A lot of it also had to do with our own Paul Gallagher sending me a copy of Barney Hoskyns’ excellent 2006 overview of the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter/folkrock sound, Hotel California.
Hotel California‘s subtitle is “The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends” and aside from some of the aforementioned artists, the book also turned me on to the music of both Judee Sill and the Byrd who could not fly, the great Gene Clark. It’s a great place to dive in, a perfect roadmap through the Canyon sound.
I even found, to my surprise, that there were some Eagles songs I really liked. A lot.
It just goes to show. In any case, Hoskyn’s excellent book was made into an equally essential BBC produced documentary, Hotel California: L.A. from the Byrds to the Eagles, a highly entertaining account of the rise and fall of Laurel Canyon rock. It’s a must see and worthy of multiple viewings.