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#1: book review: Hotel California

Posted on 2006-07-02 12:06:13 by caltrop

Review: Music

An unsparing look at when rock lost its soul

By Erik Himmelsbach
Originally published July 2, 2006

Hotel California - The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills,
Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the
Eagles, and Their Many Friends
Barney Hoskyns
Wiley / 324 pages / $25.95

Coming down hard off the Technicolor freakout of Vietnam, the
assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F.
Kennedy, and the divisive election of President Richard Nixon,
musicians began ditching didactic rock in favor of a mellow brand
of acoustic alchemy. It was nothing so much as the sound of
surrender, and though the message rang at lower volume, it was
still unquestionably clear: OK, we can't change the world, so
instead let's dig our pain.

By the early 1970s, post-hippie angst was paying off quite
handsomely, with Los Angeles serving as rock's leading exporter
of introspection. The era's artists became superstars (the
Eagles; Crosby, Stills & Nash), the string-pullers became
obscenely rich and powerful (David Geffen, Irving Azoff) and
those who chased the dream and stumbled (Gram Parsons, Gene
Clark) crashed that much harder. They formed a remarkably insular
community - artists worked together, played together and slept
together, with Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon serving as a kind of
Melrose Place.

It was a critical moment in rock history - a time when innocence
and ambition collided. The fallout was a musical climate so
perversely corrupt that punk rock had to be invented. You had
drug-filled hedonism, corporatization of pop music and the
unwelcome emergence of an oxymoronic genre of music dubbed "soft
rock." L.A.'s maestros of mellow had spawned a monster.

In Hotel California, Barney Hoskyns explains where it all went
wrong - how so many groovy, hyper-literate songwriters turned
into pretentious, backstabbing, coke-sniffing lunatics. A British
journalist and editor of Rock's Backpages - an online library of
music writing from the last 40 years (to which I have
contributed) - Hoskyns is well-versed in the lay of La-La land.
Among his previous books is 1998's Waiting for the Sun, a broad
history of pop music in Los Angeles.

Here, the focus is much narrower. As the book's subtitle
suggests, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Joni
Mitchell, David Geffen and the Eagles are the divas in this sonic
soap opera, but Hoskyns grounds the sensation with the stories of
the scene's supporting cast - Randy Newman, Judee Sill, Jimmy
Webb, the staff at Warner Bros., the folks who never lost their
vision, even when blinded by the spotlight's seductive allure.

Hoskyns methodically chips away at the era's artifice and
ego-driven mythologizing, revealing a creative landscape that was
less stardust and golden than it was green with greed and white
with cocaine residue.

The genesis of what became known as country rock serves as the
book's point of departure, with ex-Byrds singer Clark, Buffalo
Springfield and the Flying Burrito Brothers mining a mythic past
for inspiration, circa 1967. At first, they were united in a
barefooted struggle for a musical utopia, converging at
Hollywood's Troubadour, North Hollywood's Palomino or in the
backyards of Mitchell or canyon queen bee Mama Cass Elliot. Such
artists as Newman and Van Dyke Parks could thrive without the
burden of commercial expectations.

Everything changed in the summer of 1968, writes Hoskyns, when "a
loose triad of alpha males in denim jeans" began jamming in the
canyon. Together, they were a super-group: David Crosby
(ex-Byrds), Stephen Stills (ex-Springfield) and Graham Nash
(ex-Hollies), three prickly personalities who created heavenly
harmonies that touched millions. No one figured it would last -
music producer Jerry Wexler joked at the time that CSN's 1969
debut should be called Music From Big Ego.

Something was happening here, and it was left to an opportunistic
Geffen to market mellow into moolah. The New York native was the
shrewdest new-school manager in the rock world. He was ruthless,
but his artists trusted him.

With Geffen calling the shots, CSN added a Y - Stills' former
Buffalo Springfield sparring partner, Neil Young - and turned
into the American Beatles. Their success sent Crosby's already
high profile to the edge of overkill. For better or worse, the
walrus-mustachioed singer was nothing less than the L.A. scene's
face, its bon vivant, the model for Dennis Hopper's giggling,
drug-munching sidekick in Easy Rider. Already insufferable,
Crosby turned the scene into a personal fiefdom. Hoskyns'
recounting of his antics pegs him as the embodiment of an
encroaching self-absorption.

"David was obnoxious, demanding, thoughtless, full of himself,"
Geffen said. Mitchell stepped into this star-crossed universe by
virtue of a well-publicized relationship with Nash (after her
tryst with Crosby but before bedding Stills and James Taylor).
The partnership spurred the wispy blond from Canada into a period
of powerfully introspective songwriting. "The Nash/Mitchell
cohabitation was the Laurel Canyon dream incarnate," Hoskyns writes.

In 1971, just as Mitchell's true confessions began making noise
on the pop charts, Geffen formed Asylum Records, a label devoted
to woe-is-me genre artists such as Jackson Browne. Geffen also
helped hatch an ambitious band called the Eagles, who joined his
label that August. The Eagles cherry-picked sounds from the cream
of the recent L.A. scene as the basis for its baldly commercial
sound, and Geffen aggressively hyped the group as the embodiment
of the laid-back California lifestyle.

When the Eagles imploded in late 1980, it was a coffin nail to
the whole bloody mess, save the inevitable rehab bills. Of
course, before the Eagles finally flew their ego-torn coop, they
had left America with "Hotel California," a doomsday hit that
served as a hummable epitaph to the once-harmonious canyon era
(and an appropriate title for this book).

Hoskyns tells a cautionary tale (what rock 'n' roll story
isn't?). But Hotel California is also a lesson in cultural
anthropology: Its heroes and villains were among the first rock
stars to become rock gods, creating a regal distance from their
audience.

When the applause died down, there were a lot of casualties.
Parsons and Sill were dead, Clark was immersed in the bottle.
Young got weird. Mitchell got jazzy. Crosby went to jail. And
Geffen became king of the universe, even doing his part to put
the hippie dream out of its misery in 1985, when he sued Geffen
Records artist Young for making uncommercial records. There was
nothing left, save an echo of the message Peter Fonda offered to
Hopper in Easy Rider: "We blew it, man."

Erik Himmelsbach, a writer and television producer, is at work on
a book about the history of Los Angeles radio station KROQ-FM and
the alternative-culture revolution.

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#2: Re: book review: Hotel California

Posted on 2006-07-02 20:41:09 by caltrop

From - <a href="http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/hotel.htm" target="_blank">http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/hotel.htm</a>

Hotel California

Claim: The Eagles song &quot;Hotel California&quot; is about Satanism.

Status: False.


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Additional information:

Hotel California &quot;Hotel California&quot; lyrics

<a href="http://www.davemcnally.com/lyrics/TheEagles/HotelCalifornia/" target="_blank"> http://www.davemcnally.com/lyrics/TheEagles/HotelCalifornia/</a>

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