As a teenage Doors fan (albeit in the nineties rather than when they were actually happening), Laurel Canyon has long loomed large in my imagination. A few minutes drive from the Sunset Strip and cheap, the canyon was home to a feast of late sixties/early seventies music legends (although really, at the time they were just starting out), and always seemed to me like such a cool and collaborative community.
Reaching middle age has changed my idea of how much I’d actually enjoy living in such a place – more than a few people is way too much people, I’d really rather you called before you pitched up on my doorstep no matter how well you can sing, and seeing the scene through older eyes made the second class status of women much more obvious, but reading Laurel Canyon was still a fun whistle stop tour through the decade when it seemed that anyone who was anyone lived there.
Once the talent was installed in the Canyon, others followed – the producers and managers, the groupies, and the dealers – and Walker talks to a few from each category, slowly showing how the scene changed once success arrived, bringing with it tons of cocaine. As well as the drugs, Walker also gives nods to other events that changed the vibe of Laurel Canyon – the Manson Family murders, which took place nearby and the Wonderland murders at the beginning of the eighties – although it doesn’t delve too deep.
There are certain people’s tales that Walker follows more closely than anyone else, and there are a lot of people missing from his talking heads so at times it can feel a little more like the adventures of Graham Nash rather than a book about the scene, but that’s a minor quibble in what was ultimately a light and nostalgic few days of reading which led to me busting out a lot of my old vinyl.