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Laurel Canyon

The artists of the Laurel Canyon movement were a mellow, yet tightly knit bunch who formed bands, wrote songs, partied hard and slept together and, as Gary Tipp details, released an incredible catalogue of music…

Laurel Canyon is a mountainous neighbourhood located in the Hollywood Hills district of Los Angeles, California. With the birth of the film industry in 1910, it attracted a host of movie people, including Tom Mix, Clara Bow, Harry Houdini and even Bela Lugosi. Many of the English Tudor- and Spanish-style homes built around this time survive in the Canyon today, while some were burnt down by careless rockstars.

The Canyon is also one of rock music’s most fabled locations. During the late 60s and early 70s, this is where Crosby, Stills, Nash and, latterly, Young got together to pool their collective talents. this is where the ladies of the canyon, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Carly Simon and others poured their heart and soul into deeply personal songs. Sensitive straggly-haired men such as Jackson Browne and James Taylor got in on the act, as well.

With its proximity to the Sunset Strip, Laurel Canyon was also the drug-friendly, party playground of Frank Zappa, the Monkees (specifically Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz), Arthur Lee’s Love, Gram Parsons and countless others.

It inspired Jim Morrison to write Love Street, Graham Nash to compose Our House and the Mamas And the Papas to sing Twelve thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To the Canyon). UK blues legend John Mayall was so enamoured with the place he recorded a whole album about it (Blues From Laurel Canyon); at the time, he was only on holiday and had yet to move there.

It was also, crucially, where businessmen such as Asylum’s David Geffen and Elektra’s Jac Holzman were content to run their labels and develop their roster.


The scene is associated primarily with attractive brooding singer-songwriters writing heartfelt, confessional albums about getting off with other attractive brooding singer-songwriters, who, in turn, wrote heartfelt confessional albums about the experience. However, it was also a fertile breeding ground for country-rock, with the Byrds, Michael Nesmith, Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Eagles all loosely part of the same movement For the most part, what they all have in common (Frank Zappa being a notable exception) is that mellow, laid-back South Californian sound; a product of the warm climate and the beautiful surroundings.

We’ve foregone chronological order for this list, and have ordered the albums on musical merit, longevity and an even more subjective factor: Laurel Canyon-ness.



One of the clunkier named country-rock supergroups of the era, SHF formed at the suggestion of industry impresario David Geffen in an obvious grab for CSNY-style superstardom. Across the course of the debut album, echoes of former glories were evident, but conflicting egos and a lack of genuine chemistry meant the trio soon fizzled out.

Rarest 1974 Asylum £10/£15

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AMERICA (1972)

With their US Air Force fathers stationed at South Ruislip, the folk-rock trio America, ironically enough, developed their mellow SoCal sound in London. The success of the self-titled debut facilitated a return to native shores with follow-up Homecoming recorded at The Record Plant in LA. It proved to be a career high point and spawned hit single Ventura Highway.

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About Long Live Vinyl

The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Issue 21 of Long Live Vinyl celebrates the moment 50 years ago when the two biggest bands on earth went head to head on record-shop shelves. Our cover story tells the inside story of the making of The White Album and Beggars Banquet, while taking a look inside the new Deluxe Editions of both albums – you’ve never heard The White Album like this before! And our special collector’s edition covers enable you to choose either a Beatles or Stones edition – or buy both! Elsewhere this issue, we meet two of the most outspoken characters in the current musical landscape – Richard Ashcroft and Baxter Dury – to hear about their extraordinary new albums, and Heavenly Records founder Jeff Barrett talks us through his remarkable life in music, selecting the records that have soundtracked his career. Tim Burgess sits down for a chat about his O Genesis record label, The Trip visits Liverpool, our Classic Album is A Tribe Called Quest’s 1993 hip-hop masterpiece Midnight Marauders and we round up 40 Essential Laurel Canyon records that should be residing in your collection. If all that’s not enough, we bring you the most extensive range of new album, reissue and hardware reviews anywhere on the newsstand.