In this documentary, veteran music industry honcho Andrew Slater (former Capitol Records CEO) recalls a bygone era, focusing on the folk rock bands of the 1965-67 Los Angeles music scene.
In the early part of the 19th century, bucolic Laurel Canyon, nestled behind Sunset Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills, was known for its rustic cabins and hunting lodges.
But 50 years later, some of the most melodic and memorable music came from its residents, including Roger McGuinn & David Crosby of the Byrds, Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield, along with music producer Lou Adler, Ringo Starr, John Sebastian and Eric Clapton.
Serving as interviewer/commentator, taciturn Jakob Dylan (son of Bob) explains how the neighborhood’s reputation grew. Legend has it that eccentric rock star Frank Zappa rented a cabin on Lookout Mountain. Friends enjoyed his wild parties, settling near him in the area above the Sunset Strip.
But what sealed Laurel Canyon’s ‘60s appeal was The Beatles, specifically George Harrison’s 12-string Rickenbacker guitar which sparked interest in – as Roger McGuinn put it – “taking an old folk song and souping it up with a Beatle beat.” The late Tom Petty noted that his colleagues walked the line between “cross-pollination” and “outright theft.”
What’s fascinating is how residents dropped into one another’s homes for jam sessions and impromptu parties. “The Manson murders ruined the L.A. music scene,” Michelle Phillips recalls. “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.”
On the other hand, Slater’s inclusion of footage from French director Jacques Demy’s Model Shop (1969), as a cultural artifact, strikes a discordant note, along with too much emphasis on Jakob Dylan’s musician friends performing covers of the ‘real’ thing.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Echo in the Canyon” is a star-studded 6, a nostalgic blast-from-the-past.