In the fabled 1960s, LA became the centre of the record business. Oddly close to buzzing Sunset Strip was Laurel Canyon; green, hilly, a little eccentric. It became home to a huge number of musicians and artists attracted by the boho vibe. The folky-rock music of the likes of The Byrds and Cream inspired others at the time and, come to that, musicians down the generations. And in this documentary contemporary rockers – including Beck and Norah Jones – corralled by the doc’s presenter and ringmaster Jakob Dylan (Bob’s son), have a go at the original hits (most of which hold up rather well) in a series of joyful jam sessions.
Folk-inspired sounds and chord changes can be detected in mid-period Beatles whose Rubber Soul album influenced The Beach Boys’ classic Pet Sounds which, in turn, influenced Sgt. Pepper. This cross-pollination was a big feature in Laurel Canyon. Sadly, the laid-back and ultra-hedonistic lifestyle of casual sex and recreational drugs (or getting it on and getting high in 60s parlance) is rather glossed over.
There’s a lot of blokey stuff about the differing qualities of rival electric guitar brands and sweaty, late night seshes in the studio. The poetic tapping into the subconscious (with a little help from weed and acid) of the West Coast Sound gets similar short shrift: “dancing beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,” was a far cry from previous pop of the, “baby, I love you” variety.
The documentary can be a little repetitive and there’s way too many drone shots. But fans will love it. There’s plenty of archive footage and it’s great to see the likes of The Mamas & the Papas’ Michelle Phillips and Beach Boy Brian Wilson reminiscing about a time when pop music was still great.
Available on Blu-ray, DVD and On-demand now