I've had Canyon of Dreams on my wishlist for a while, checked out a copy from library and decided, yes, I have to own this book. Laurel Canyon is a magical maze in the hills of Southern California that has been an enclave for artists and musicians, most notably the folk and rock renaissance of the late 60s- mid 70s. Deeply forested, isolated, and elevated, the canyon provided a secluded haven for the famous, a magical playground for the creative. Serving as a counterculture hideaway for decades, the first such resident was said to be Frederick Shaw, aka Crazy Shaw, whose wild, crackpot inventions were based in a philosophy mixing naturalism and technological advancement. Later, screen stars and starlets of the silent era like Clara Bow, Ramon Navarro, Errol Flynn, Harry Houdini and thousands others took up residence in this sun-baked hillside forest, and still reportedly, haunt the grounds. Soaked in mystery, decadence, and occult, the 20s era stars soon lead to generations of other actors through the 1950s.
The 60s brought a new influx of artists: Musicians like Arthur Lee, Jackie DeShannon, Frank Zappa, Mark Volman, Eric Burdon, Mickey Dolenz, Jim Morrison, Donovan, John & Michelle Philips, Gram Parsons, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, and a host of others, their entourage of friends, bandmates, and groupies escaped the lower streets of LA and throngs of fans in the rolling terrain. Magic was afoot. You could hear the new pre-release Doors album wafting in the air from Jim's hideaway digs, and walking a bit further, The Byrds' Chris Hillman would be noodling on his bass in a picture window tucked behind trees. Great albums were conceptualized and recorded there, sealing the Canyon legacy. Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon and, even earlier, Jackie DeShannon's Laurel Canyon immortalized the place as a creative, almost spiritual, oasis.
The book is packed with text and photos, mainly from the folk and psychedelic rock era residents of the Canyon. It contains historical bits, interview snippets, and a chronological narrative of the canyon from its early days until present. Survivors like Pamela Des Barres and Ray Manzarek reflect on their years and the characters they crossed paths with in the Laurel Canyon of the 60s and 70s.
"That deep green crease that runs through the Holywood Hills from the Sunset Strip to the San Fernando Valley. That curving, twisting boulevard of hipness and psychedelia; of movie stars and mystics and jazz and folk and rock; of Harry Houdini, Clark Gable, Shelly Manne, and Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, and The Doors. Not to mention the ladies-- the flower children, the witches, the punkettes, the starlets. The fine and sweet and innocent chicks. Yes. The chicks. For that is what we called them in the '60s. All soft and bejeweled and feathered and wrapped in their soft garments from antique clothing stores." - Ray Manzarek, Canyon of Dreams
Image Source: Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon by Harvey Kubernik