Coffee table books are guilty pleasures, and here in tubbyland citizens tithe a percentage of their earning for their purchase and circulation in public libraries.
Where to begin?
Deborah Harry and Blondie Picture This by Mick Rock (Palazzo 2010).
Hollywood has a long and promiscuous relationship with
dyed peroxided blonde femme fatales beginning with Mae West. Deborah Harry, the Queen of Power Pop who is 67 this year, changed the equation somewhat by avoiding the direct sexual come-on dimension, and established a new relationship between the lens and subject. A mix of alternative blonde glamour, fun and pop art. Anyway, Rock’s photos are fab as instanced below.
However, we must go west to California for the real beginning of this post, and the construction of The Garden of Allah apartments on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood in 1927 by the multi-skilled silent movie actress Alla Nazimova.
This was the abode for you if you were a rich, talented amoralist with an appetite for alcohol, Bolivian marching dust, brawling and promiscuity. This truly degenerate home-away-from-home for literary and acting luminaries of the day, including that arch-skunk from Tasmania Errol Flynn.(1)
Like yours truly, Flynn had an enviable school record. “In 1926, he attended Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore School) where he was the classmate of future Australian Prime Minister, John Gorton. He was expelled for fighting and, allegedly, having sex with a school laundress. He was also expelled from several other schools he had attended in Tasmania”.
And this brings me to Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and Music of Laurel Canyon by Harvey Kubernich, lushly produced by Sterling Publications in 2009, and chockfull of luscious photos and reminiscences by the musical progeny of this section of the Hollywood Hills.
My favourite has to be the snap of Jackie De Shannon, brilliant songwriter, escapee from the Brill Building and all round mistress of her own destiny. (Why she is not lauded by feminist scribblers today is totally beyond me.) When You Walk in the Room still resonates today as does Don’t Doubt Yourself Babe.
Perfect 360 degree singles.
A full review of Canyon of Dreams by Holly Cara Price (what is it with Americans and their names) in the Huffington Post can be read HERE.
While this is a fabulous read about an epoch saturated in innocence and possibility in The Promised Land before smack etc dampened the party, I have serious retrospective concerns about the musical product turned out by The Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell, the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Frank Zappa, Linda Ronstadt, Crosby Stills @ Nash and The Doors to mention but a few.
The list is bloody endless, since the LA sound dominated much of the sixties and all of the seventies. In fact, I cringe when I think of all the lunch money spent buying vinyl on the above. However, Tim Buckley gets a free pass with Sweet Surrender from his Greetings from LA.
Sexy stuff with a serpentine rhythm section.
Maybe a few other things survive in 2012, namely Cruising with Ruben and the Jets, Zappa’s homage to Doo Woop and the first incarnation of the Byrds with their warm jangly Rickenbacker sound combined with visual style. And no prize for the reader who can provide the Peter Fonda joke about the Byrds. The massive wiki entry HERE should provide the clue.
If I were to highlight the LA sounds which still grace my fond memory bank, I would opt for the year 1966 before the City of Angels sound-zeitgeist adopted the country-lite sound of the Eagles et al. This was the year of the Sunset Strip riots when long haired pot smoking youth rebelled against the heavy- handed street clearance tactics used by the para-military LAPD, which is brilliantly described by Mike Davis and who is America’s greatest living social historian HERE. My previous references to Mike Davis in the backpost: Manifest Destiny Meets the Pacific.
1966 saw guitar-based psychedelia reach its peak with bands like Love, The Seeds, Chocolate Watch Band, Count Five, Shadows of Knight and numerous lesser lights, who had parents able to afford fuzz boxs and farfisa organs. As far as the recommendation department goes, I suggest some of the lesser lights and this Volume 20 compilation in particular, which is in turn part of a 26 disc series of garage compilations.
Lets conclude with some sound illustrations. The Third Eye by The Dovers. Guys, lets emulate the Byrd’s, make millions, buy a Mustang and meets lots of chicks.
And another favourite. The Trip by Kim Fowley who is a whole other post in HIMSELF.
I’m done and didn’t mention China once.
Oh yes, Footnote 1. Errol gets a mention since I’m ebaying a copy of Showdown his second novel. First ed, Invincible Press, 1946 with half a dust cover. Very good condition. No foxing.
The cost of all the hired help employed around tubbyland is killing me.