by Barney Hoskyns ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 1, 1996
A caustic, gossipy, refreshingly idiosyncratic history of the music business in Los Angeles. Having interviewed many of the major players, British author Hoskyns (Across the Great Divide: The Band and America, 1993) ambitiously aims to make sense of the careers of every notable musician ever to spend time in L.A., in the context of the city's ethnic and geographical cultures, the L.A.-based record companies' differing sensibilities, the cultural currents their records both spawned and reflected, and especially the pattern of monstrous self-indulgence that seemingly few L.A. musicians have evaded. The pre-rock era is covered fairly perfunctorily, but Hoskyns begins to shine with early '60s tales of hack songwriters, calculating record companies, and motley unaffiliated hustlers all angling to produce a Top 40 hit. Hoskyns notes that there's as much image manipulation in pop as in the movies. The Beach Boys created the myth of southern California as endless beach party, but, in Hoskyns's typically pithy characterization, leader Brian Wilson was ""an all-American misfit . . . a gawky, introspective geek"" who'd never surfed. The allwhite Hollywood hit-makers could afford to be oblivious to the Watts dots, even as they came to represent the ""counterculture."" A countrified pop mafia (David Crosby, Cass Elliott, Neil Young, etc.) based in L.A.'s outer canyons grew up in the late '60s, but the hippie idealism of life away from Hollywood had a dark flip side, exemplified by the Manson Family and a series of self-destructions from drugs. Hoskyns acerbically registers the irony that the staggeringly successful mellow L.A. pop of the '70s--by such artists as the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, and Fleetwood Mac--was created in a milieu ruled by two supremely unmellow forces: cocaine and workaholic mogul David Geffen. Though occasionally marred by mean spirits, this is an unusually lively, provocative study.
Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996
Page Count: 384
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996
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