The 60’s pales in comparison to the turbulent times we experience in today’s world. With daily protests, murders and an entertainment industry on pause, artists everywhere are struggling to identify what all of this means moving forward.
But, in the magical mountainous roads of Laurel Canyon buried right above the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, dozens of now legendary artists jammed, recorded and crated music that resonates more now than ever. Why? It was just a nice place to live where you could get to ‘the strip’ in a matter of minutes, it was cheap. You know the songs, “Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man,” “California Dreamin” and the groups, Love, The Mamas and The Papas, The Beatles, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills and Nash Linda Rondstadt, Joni Mitchell, The Byrds and The Monkees to name a few.
Directed by Alison Ellwood, Laurel Canyon was shot in Super 8MM by its creative cinematographer Sam Painter in order to match the look and feel of the decade, Ellwood makes it point to not focus on her famous artists by having them show onscreen. A method that is common for most documentaries of this nature. I, for one, appreciated that because it allowed you to focus on the stories being shared and NOT the stars doing the sharing.
Those stories range from the photographers who shot these folk/rock and roll legends (Henry Diltz) to learning the inner workings of the groups, its members, who influenced who and ultimately the effect this musical movement would have on the world within the nooks and crannies of Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon.
My personal connection comes in the form of the Canyon Country Store. Easily, I swing around the canyon past this legendary nook numerous times in the course of a day, only to learn below the store is a restaurant that operated solely as a club hangout for the resident musicians in the area. Who knew? That spot is also featured in the scene of the recent Focus Features flick ‘The High Note.’
Laurel Canyon was a place that had no sidewalks, no regimented lines and one could be as free and unfiltered as they pleased. It represents a moment in time that all be forever treasured and is now on celluloid for all of posterity. I was fortunate enough to be able to grab interviews with Johnny Echols (LOVE), Chris Hillman (THE BYRDS), Director Alison Ellwood and Michelle Phillips (The Mamas and The Papas). All of the interviews can be found on my YouTube Channel, but here’s my interview with Michelle Phillips. In the meantime, pop over to EPIX and catch the series while you can.