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The Laurel Canyon Sound: From “California Dreamin'” to “Hotel California”

Singer-songwriters and other performers flocked to Los Angeles from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, ushering in “folk rock” and then “country rock”, with many tunes now labeled “classic rock”. In an era after birth control pills and before AIDS, they thrived on sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll at house parties in Laurel Canyon and at a West Hollywood club called the Troubadour. Many sang each other’s songs and played in each other’s bands, making music that will out-live them all.

  1. The Mamas & the Papas – California Dreamin’ (1966)
  2. The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
  3. Buffalo Springfield – Sit Down, I Think I Love You (1966)
  4. The Mamas & the Papas – Dedicated to the One I Love (1967)
  5. The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965)
  6. Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth (1967)
  7. The Mamas & the Papas – Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon) (1967)
  8. The Byrds – I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better (1965)
  9. Buffalo Springfield – On the Way Home (1968)
  10. The Mamas & the Papas – Dream a Little Dream of Me (1968)
  11. The Byrds – My Back Pages (1967)
  12. The Stone Poneys w/Bernie Leadon – Different Drum (1967)
  13. Dillard & Clark w/Bernie Leadon – Train Leaves Here This Morning (1968)
  14. Judy Collins – Both Sides, Now (1968)
  15. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (1969)
  16. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Cinnamon Girl (1969)
  17. Joni Mitchell – The Circle Game (1969)
  18. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Helplessly Hoping (1969)
  19. Judy Collins w/Stephen Stills – Someday Soon (1969)
  20. The Flying Burrito Brothers – Hot Burrito #1 (1969)
  21. Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and John Sebastian – Get Together (1969)
  22. James Taylor – Sweet Baby James (1970)
  23. Linda Ronstadt – Long Long Time (1970)
  24. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Our House (1970)
  25. Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi (1970)
  26. The Flying Burrito Brothers – The Dark End of the Street (1969)
  27. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Woodstock (1970)
  28. James Taylor – Fire and Rain (1970)
  29. Carole King – It’s Too Late (1971)
  30. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young w/Jerry Garcia – Teach Your Children (1970)
  31. Judee Sill – Jesus Was a Cross Maker (1971)
  32. James Taylor w/Carole King – You’ve Got a Friend (1971)
  33. Stephen Stills w/Crosby & Nash, Rita Coolidge, and John Sebastian – Love the One You’re With (1970)
  34. America – Ventura Highway (1972)
  35. Carole King w/James Taylor – So Far Away (1971)
  36. David Crosby w/Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell, plus Garcia, Kreutzmann, and Lesh of the Grateful Dead – Laughing (1971)
  37. Linda Ronstadt w/Glenn Frey and Don Henley – Rock Me on the Water (1972)
  38. Jackson Browne w/Crosby & Nash – Doctor My Eyes (1972)
  39. Graham Nash – Chicago/We Can Change the World (1971)
  40. Carole King – I Feel the Earth Move (1971)
  41. John David Souther w/Glenn Frey – How Long (1972)
  42. Manassas w/Jerry Garcia – So Begins the Task (1972)
  43. Poco – A Good Feelin’ to Know (1972)
  44. Eagles – Take It Easy (1972)
  45. Graham Nash and David Crosby w/Dave Mason – Immigration Man (1972)
  46. Bonnie Raitt – Love Has No Pride (1972)
  47. Eagles – Peaceful Easy Feeling (1972)
  48. The Byrds – Full Circle (1973)
  49. Jackson Browne – These Days (1973)
  50. Eagles – Desperado (1973)
  51. Gene Clark – Silver Raven (1974)
  52. Linda Ronstadt w/Maria Muldaur – Heart Like a Wheel (1974)
  53. Eagles – Already Gone (1974)
  54. Gene Clark – No Other (1974)
  55. Souther Hillman Furay Band – Rise and Fall (1974)
  56. Eagles – Take It to the Limit (1975)
  57. Bonnie Raitt w/Jackson Browne and John David Souther – Run Like a Thief (1975)
  58. Tom Waits – San Diego Serenade (1974)
  59. Dan Fogelberg w/Joe Walsh, Don Henley, and Glenn Frey – (Someone’s Been) Telling You Stories (1974)
  60. Poco – Keep on Trying’ (1975)
  61. Fleetwood Mac – Rhiannon (1975)
  62. Jackson Browne w/Don Henley, John David Souther, and Dan Fogelberg – Before the Deluge (1974)
  63. Linda Ronstadt – That’ll Be the Day (1976)
  64. Fleetwood Mac – Landslide (1975)
  65. Souther Hillman Furay Band w/Glenn Frey and Don Henley – Somebody Must Be Wrong (1975)
  66. Linda Ronstadt w/Don Henley – Blue Bayou (1977)
  67. Fleetwood Mac – The Chain (1977)
  68. John David Souther – Faithless Love (1976)
  69. Jackson Browne w/Crosby & Nash – The Pretender (1976)
  70. Dave Mason – We Just Disagree (1977)
  71. Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way (1977)
  72. Dan Fogelberg w/Joe Walsh, Don Henley, and John David Souther – Loose Ends (1977)
  73. Warren Zevon w/Jackson Browne – Desperadoes Under the Eaves (1976)
  74. Eagles – Hotel California (1977)

The Byrds (1964): Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Michael Clarke, and Chris Hillman
The Mamas & the Papas (1965): Cass Elliot, John Phillips, Denny Doherty, and Michelle Phillips
Buffalo Springfield (1966): Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Neil Young, Dewey Martin, and Bruce Palmer
The Stone Poneys (1966): Linda Ronstadt, Bobby Kimmel, and Kenny Edwards
Crosby, Stills, Nash (1968) & Young (1969): David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young
Poco (1968): Richie Furay, Jim Messina, Rusty Young, George Grantham, and Randy Meisner/Timothy B. Schmit
Dillard & Clark (1968): Doug Dillard and Gene Clark, with backing from Bernie Leadon, Chris Hillman, and others
The Flying Burrito Brothers (1968): Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, and Chris Ethridge/Bernie Leadon
Neil Young & Crazy Horse (1969): Neil Young, Danny Whitten, Billy Talbot, and Ralph Molina
America (1970): Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley
Manassas (1971): Stephen Stills, Chris Hillman, Al Perkins, Calvin Samuels, Paul Harris, Dallas Taylor, and Joe Lala
Eagles (1971): Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner
Souther Hillman Furay Band (1973): John David Souther, Chris Hillman, and Richie Furay
Fleetwood Mac (U.S. version, 1975): Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsay Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks

The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
The Byrds – The Byrds’ Greatest Hits (1967)
The Mamas and the Papas – 16 of Their Greatest Hits (1969)
Buffalo Sringfield – Restrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield (1969)
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)
James Taylor – Sweet Baby James (1970)
Joni Mitchell – Ladies of the Canyon (1970)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu (1970)
Carole King – Tapestry (1971)
Judy Collins – Colors of the Day: The Best of Judy Collins (1972)
Gram Parsons – Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels, 1963-1973 (2001)
Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like a Wheel (1974)
Gene Clark – American Dreamer, 1964-1974 (1993)
Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac (1975)
Eagles – Their Greatest Hits, 1971-1975 (1976)
Jackson Browne – The Pretender (1976)
Eagles – Hotel California (1976)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)

(It must be true, I saw it on the internet)

The Mamas and the Papas sang of their move from New York City to Laurel Canyon in their 1967 hit song, “Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon)”

Joni Mitchell’s 1970 album “Ladies of the Canyon” likewise addressed life as part of the music culture of Laurel Canyon

The Byrds met at a Monday open mic at the Troubadour

David Crosby annoyed his Byrds’ bandmates by filling in for an absent Neil Young, when Buffalo Springfield played at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival

Gene Clark was afraid of flying, thus making touring a challenge; when Roger McGuinn fired Clark from the Byrds because of that, he used one of the more ironic lines of all time, stating that “If you can’t fly, you can’t be a Byrd”

Mama Cass Elliot often hosted parties at her house in Laurel Canyon and, according to her, David Crosby and Stephen Stills first met Graham Nash there

Joni Mitchell later disagreed, though, saying that she introduced Nash to Crosby and Stills at her own house in Laurel Canyon

Graham Nash went on to write “Our House” about his life in the Laurel Canyon cottage that he was then sharing with Joni Mitchell

Stephen Stills wrote “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” about his on-again/off-again relationship with Judy Collins in that same era

Stills played guitar on the recordings of both Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and Judy Collins’ “Someday Soon”

Backup players for Joni Mitchell in her recordings of the era included not only Stills, but also Crosby, Nash, and James Taylor

The CSNY album “Deja Vu” took around 800 hours of studio time to perfect

Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia played pedal steel guitar on “Teach Your Children” in exchange for CSNY helping the Dead improve their vocal harmony

Glenn Frey and John David Souther played as Longbranch Pennywhistle and shared a small apartment when they first arrived in Los Angeles; there they met Jackson Browne who lived downstairs in an even tinier one

Don Henley and Glenn Frey met for the first time in the bar at the Troubadour, prior to joining Linda Ronstadt’s touring band

Carole King was opening for James Taylor at the Troubadour when he first heard her play her song “You’ve Got a Friend”

Both King and Taylor recorded “You’ve Got a Friend”, providing backing vocals for each other; Joni Mitchell also joined them on both versions

Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks met in high school and later moved to Los Angeles to break into the music business, playing as Buckingham Nicks; they hit it big after Fleetwood Mac relocated to the States and asked them to join their band

Michael Walker – Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood (2006)
Barney Hoskyns – Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends (2006)
Harvey Kubernik – Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon (2009)
David McGowan – Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & the Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream (2014)
DVD – Legends of the Canyon (2010)

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