Where The Creatures Meet
Right in the middle of one of the busiest areas of Los Angeles hides the quiet neighborhood of Laurel Canyon. It sits just high enough in the Hollywood Hills that you can no longer hear the cars and people on the crowded Sunset Strip below. Geographically, it is only minutes away from the glitz and glamour of Beverly Hills and the fast pace of Hollywood. In character however, they are miles apart.
Prior to the 1900s not much was going on in Laurel Canyon. Development in the area picked up around the same time as the film industry and the Canyon became home to some of Hollywood’s first movie stars. Clara Bow, Rock Hudson, and Errol Flynn all took residence in the quiet streets, and it was during a raid at a Laurel Canyon party that Robert Mitchum was arrested for smoking pot. Later in 1947, the United States government bought a large property at 8935 Wonderland Avenue which was used as a film studio for military videos - or so they say. Conspiracy theories about the government’s involvement in Laurel Canyon float around to this day and no one really knows exactly what they were up to tucked away in such a quiet part of town. Despite all this, Laurel Canyon’s most lasting reputation has been as the birthplace and breeding ground for California’s greatest music. Joni Mitchell, The Byrds, Crosby Stills & Nash, Neil Young, Jim Morrison, Jackson Browne, Brian Wilson, Frank Zappa, The Eagles, The Mammas & The Pappas, and Carole King all not only lived in Laurel Canyon, but also wrote, recorded, and collaborated there in each other’s homes and backyards.
You won’t need to have visited Laurel Canyon in the 60s to be able to tell that it hasn’t changed much since. Sure a few houses have been torn down and the vintage Pontiacs parked on the road may be outnumbered (only slightly) by shiny Priuses, yet somehow the vibe of Laurel Canyon still feels undeniably like a Joni Mitchell song. Introspective, laid-back, and peaceful. It’s hard to tell if it was the musicians that shaped Laurel Canyon or Laurel Canyon that shaped the musicians, but either way popular music wouldn’t be what it is today had it not been for the community that was formed along those winding streets.
We are all a product of our environment. This is the environment that created California rock.