The first “critical history” of Los Lobos.
In his debut, former Hollywood Reporter music editor and Billboard senior writer Morris presents an overview of the seminal California band’s four-decade career, focusing on how their musical palate expanded over time. A longtime supporter (his was one of the last weddings Los Lobos played), the author attributes “Los Lobos’ totemic position in L.A.’s musical firmament” to their unique background and the individual members’ restless open-mindedness. Initially, the youthful Mexican-American amateur musicians wanted to play traditional folk, in keeping with the era’s Chicano consciousness. As they honed this approach in raucous restaurant and wedding gigs, they also found themselves inspired by LA’s fertile post-punk scene, where they found kinship with bands like X and the Blasters. This incongruous fusion of Mexican music with punk’s reverence for rockabilly and roots paid off; fervent early supporters and the band themselves were startled by a Grammy win for an early EP. With their major label debut, "it became apparent to the band's producers that something new was afoot in Los Lobos' music." Still, no one expected that their titular single from the 1987 film La Bamba (a Richie Valens cover) would be a sudden chart-topper. Unable to match its commercial success, despite the prodding of several record labels, the band went on to a series of experimental, acclaimed (but underselling) albums. As Morris summarizes, “after hitting a creative wall amid the snares of rock stardom, they forged into terra incognita.” The author writes with an encyclopedic knowledge of California rock and effectively uses interviews with band members and producers. Although his primary focus is on a chronological analysis of the band’s recordings and their production, Morris also deftly addresses insider aspects of the music industry, much transformed since the 1970s, adding depth to this otherwise brief account while clarifying how Los Lobos survived changes in styles and label politics to become an enduring cross-cultural institution.
A useful cultural history that is sure to please fans and musicologists.