“Laurel Canyon was a place that gave you the permission to ask who you were, to find out what this life held for you and not be scrambling for some regimented job in a regimented city.” ( Jackson Browne )
I always envisioned Laurel Canyon in Southern California as an isolated mountain setting filled with celebrity music inspiration clearly set off from the massive city bustle of Los Angeles beyond. It seemed therefore likely to me on our road trip visit last week that we could “chill” enjoying some idle time there and feel less “caught up” in the carousel of time. For I could daydream there for a “spell” about that past generation of musicians that I grew up with who filled me with peace, love, and unity’s call and thus forget the pain of life’s complex problems today.
Without question, then, Ruth and I anticipated a momentous visit to Laurel Canyon as we we casually relaxed with a cup of coffee at the community’s famed Canyon Country Store. Know that this place once served as a casual hub of activity where pop music legends mingled together as “cool people”” during the late 1960s and early 1970s. We’re talking members of The Doors, Beach Boys, or Crosby, Stills, and Nash, for instance, engaging in an intimate exchange of musical energy about writing their latest new songs or perhaps Mama Cass entering the scene to recruit aspiring musical prodigies to her house for an upcoming celebrity party. How exciting it felt now to nostalgically relive in my mind those spontaneous pop star occasions as I took a morning glance at a colorful display of “retro” posters, hippie woodcraft, and graffiti artwork lining the country store that morning.
So with great enthusiasm, we looked forward to continuing our time travel experience of those free- spirited times in Laurel Canyon’s past by taking a driving tour around those crooked narrow streets creeping steeply upward to explore some remaining signs of the town’s bohemian musical past. Yet it soon became clear that Laurel Canyon throughout the town felt nothing like the openly communal aura of pop star mania that I felt earlier at the country store. For as we passed by those iconic Laurel Canyon houses where such magical songs about peace and tranquility of my era were composed, they seemed noticeably secluded by either densely packed foliage, imposing stone walls or electronic security barriers.
So with so much of the town seemingly very private and thus off-limits to tourists, it made more sense for us to spend the bulk of our driving time ascending along cliffside Mulholland Drive to instead obtain grandiose views of the vast Los Angeles Metropolis below. It seems only fitting in my mind that we will conclude our California vacation by getting our fill of some good old rock n’ roll music with a concert featuring Chicago and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys tonight. Enjoy the photos.