Rock & Roll Books

Summer reading

Rock & Roll Books

Hotel California

by Barney Hoskyns

Wiley, 336 pp., $25.95

It was such a lovely place: Los Angeles in the mid-Sixties offered a refuge from suburban America in the grip of war, a dwelling for kindred spirits. Brit rock crit Barney Hoskyns' Hotel California recounts the genesis of the "denim navel-gazers" of Laurel Canyon, inhabited by the likes of David Crosby, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, the Byrds, Gram Parsons, and a rotating door of celebrity. The opening scene is meant to be a harbinger, of course: It's 1971, coke is it, and David Geffen's sitting naked in a sauna with the Eagles. The shift from peace and love to Porsches and blow came with the end of Sixties idealism, posits the author. Hoskyns takes a historian's view, chronicling the success and failures of CSN (and sometimes the Y), Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, and Joni, through the country-fried singer-songwriter era to the Malibu beach houses of the early Seventies, when stadium tours had to be booked to fit ballooning egos. To wit, Graham Nash is quoted as saying L.A. at this time was like "Vienna at the turn of the century, or Paris in the 1930s", with Geffen as Svengali and founder of the influential Asylum label. By 1970, he was already a millionaire, and the Eagles' declaration, "You can check out any time you like" was the perfect elegy.

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