The development of “The California Sound” started in the 1960’s in Laurel Canyon, a part of Los Angeles. On the left side of the below movie poster, you can see the artists who were interviewed, and on the right side are more current musicians who performed many of the era’s classic songs in a concert that was woven into the documentary.
Laurel Canyon was a neighborhood that was home to some of the most important music artists of the ‘60’s. They included members of The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Mamas & The Papas, and more.
The movie starts out with an interview with Tom Petty, who was one of the artists most influenced by the Laurel Canyon musicians and songwriters. He explained and demonstrated how important the 12-string Rickenbacker guitar was to the sound of The Byrds and The Beatles. It’s so great that they interviewed Petty before we lost him. This film includes a lot of other important artists whose interviews will also be considered priceless someday.
Above is a performance by Jakob Dylan, Beck, and other musicians in front of a large screen showing The Byrds. The song was “Goin’ Back” a Byrds track that was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. It was the best performance of the film. Even though I would have enjoyed more archival footage of the original bands playing their songs, it was good to see another generation adding their own touches to the classic songs.
Musicians being interviewed by Jakob Dylan, such as Roger McGuinn and David Crosby above, provided the best moments. All of the artists opened up about insightful and often humorous events that humanized the time when magical music was coming from the canyon.
Eric Clapton told the story of hanging out at Stephen Stills’ house along with members of Buffalo Springfield (shown above). Clapton says when neighbors complained about the music being too loud, police officers stopped by. Because marijuana was being illegally used, Stills slipped out the back of the house. Stephen Stills embarrassingly confirmed he had abandoned his friends. Of course the most interesting part is that English musicians like Clapton, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison visited Laurel Canyon and were friends with many of the musicians there. There was a lot of sharing of musical ideas between the Brits and the Americans.
Michelle Phillips Of The Mamas & The Papas was very candid. While married to John Phillips, she had an affair with the group’s other male vocalist, Denny Doherty. She says “Go Where You Wanna Go” (and do what you wanna do) was written by John as a response to Michelle’s infidelity. A decade later in Los Angeles, Lindsey Buckingham wrote “Go Your Own Way” after his breakup with Stevie Nicks. It would also be appropriate to do Echo In The Canyon Volume 2 that focused on all of the 1970’s artists who lived in that same area…the Eagles, Jackson Browne, CSN&Y, Linda Ronstadt, J.D. Souther, and more.
Update: Another documentary, Laurel Canyon (on Epix), covers some of the same ground as Echo, but extends to about 1975 to include more artists. There’s a review on this site. The movie is excellent!
If you have an interest in the music and artists represented in this film, it’s really “can’t miss”. The 90-minute run-time seemed a little short, but there was a good sample of all that “California Dreamin’” that emanated from Laurel Canyon.