An Oral History of Laurel Canyon, the Sixties and Seventies Music Mecca


GLENN FREY: I kept my eye on everybody’s careers. I read the backs of albums…

GLENN FREY: I kept my eye on everybody’s careers. I read the backs of albums like they were the Dead Sea Scrolls. CSN hung the moon. They were like the Beatles for about two years.

STEPHEN STILLS: [The Eagles] certainly destroyed us at the box office. We have to get Neil and stay out a long time to make that kind of money.

CAMERON CROWE: Glenn and Don were never embraced as songwriters the way they should be. You’d catch shit for loving the Eagles as much as you loved CSNY.

J. D. SOUTHER: The press didn’t like the Eagles, because Irving Azoff wouldn’t let them talk to the press.

IRVING AZOFF: I loved Crosby, Stills & Nash, but the Eagles were saying something different. The Eagles were that post-Woodstocky thing. They were writing about lines on the mirror. They were guys’ guys. It was more like a fraternity.

Pot and psychedelics may have fueled the creativity of the California music scene, but when cocaine and heroin entered the picture, everything changed.

DAVID GEFFEN: I remember everything, because I was not stoned.

BONNIE RAITT: Partying became a nuisance and self-destructive if you let it go on. By the time you’re at it for 10 or 15 years, it’s going to look different on you in your mid-30s than it did in your 20s.

PETER ASHER: This is the contradiction, isn’t it? They said the music was “mellow,” but these weren’t particularly mellow people. There was quite a lot of cocaine involved—which is not renowned for a mellowing effect.

DAVID CROSBY: Drugs were a bad influence on everybody. I can’t think of a single way that hard drugs ever helped anybody.

JONI MITCHELL: Cocaine just puts a barrier up. Where Graham and I had been a real couple, very close, suddenly there was this barrier. People were more secretive about drugs back then. I never was much of a druggie. Cigarettes and coffee—that’s my poison.

JUDY COLLINS: A lot of people used a lot of drugs. I was up to my eyeballs drinking. I wouldn’t use anything else seriously, because I really didn’t want to have my drinking interfered with.

DAVID GEFFEN: They all made a lot of money. They didn’t all keep a lot of money. David Crosby went through an incredible fortune; look what he went through to finally get his act together—he had to go to jail.

Scenes aren’t meant to last. They sparkle with activity, flourish, then burn out. The California music scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s fell apart because of drugs, money, success, Altamont, money, drugs, burnout, and new musical trends.

LOU ADLER: The hippie version of freedom in the 1960s was breaking down the Establishment. Well, we were buying houses in Bel Air; we were becoming the Establishment.

BONNIE RAITT: Once people get successful, they move to more expensive Zip Codes, and nobody does the hang anymore. The early days of being single and in your early 20s was a really golden era where all of us had less responsibilities than we did later. Once people started having kids, they moved to areas where the schools were good.

ELLIOT ROBERTS: The scene broke up because you became adults. We were all in our early 20s when there was that scene—all kids in their early 20s have a scene. All of a sudden you have a girlfriend or you’re getting married. By 30, 35, the scene is gone. You have families, kids, jobs. You buy a house. You want to get guitar lessons for your kid and a Bar Mitzvah. When you’re 20, it’s O.K. for eight people to crash in a living room, six on a floor. At 35 you’re not crashing anymore—your back hurts.

MICHELLE PHILLIPS: Before 1969, my memories were nothing but fun and excitement and shooting to the top of the charts and loving every minute of it. The Manson murders [in the summer of 1969] ruined the L.A. music scene. That was the nail in the coffin of the freewheeling, let’s get high, everybody’s welcome, come on in, sit right down. Everyone was terrified. I carried a gun in my purse. And I never invited anybody over to my house again.


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