Saturday, September 16, 2017

Young Girls Are Coming To the Canyon

When in New York it's simpler to find the old haunts. There's a constant Lennon vigil outside the Dakota (and while you're there, keep in mind that it's also the apartment building of Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse). It's simple to find the bar stool where Dylan Thomas said his last defining words at the White Horse Tavern, "18 straight whiskeys. I think that’s the record." That clock stuck at 12:30 in Greenwich Village was fixed, but it's still there.

L.A.'s always been a different story, and such is the case in the canyon. Looks pretty much the same, but Zappa's log cabin burned to the ground in 1981 and Morrison's place on "Love Street" is hardly recognizable. Somewhere in the canyon (where the young girls came), Arthur Lee watched hippies pick flowers as he wrote "Forever Changes," but no one's sure where. My elementary school fell down in an earthquake.

In the 60s, Laurel Canyon was a destination for hippie runaways cum singer songwriters; rents were cheap and the Sunset Strip was right down the way – the same reasons that today real estate prices rival the view. The canyon isn’t easily accessible by foot (do-able, but not for the faint of heart), and a drive-by doesn't do the history justice, but should you venture to this artery joining Studio City and West Hollywood, a good place to start your rock tour is the Canyon Country Store. "There’s this store where the creatures meet" is how Jim Morrison described it in "Love Street." And it's still there.

Chris Hillman's Byrds Hideaway
"One day soon after Glenn  Frey moved here, he saw David Crosby sitting on the steps smoking a joint and knew he was in the right place," Laurel Canyon historian Michael Walker said, and every Angelino with a rock sensibility has sat on those steps. An optimistically trippy paint job harkens back to when Morrison lived next door to the Canyon Cleaners, a block away.

At the intersection of Laurel Canyon and Lookout Mountain Avenue is the site of Zappa's compound, now a grassy field but once the favorite hangout of Pamela Des Barres' groupie coven, Girls Together Outrageously. Next door is a Mediterranean mansion that will look familiar to Guns 'N' Roses fans -- they shot their "November Rain" video there. And across the street is the sylvan, slightly creepy Houdini House, whose network of caves and grottoes was a favorite crash pad for new arrivals to the canyon.

For a peace/love pick-me-up, you'll want to pass by the house with two cats that inspired Graham Nash's ode to domestic bliss with Joni Mitchell, but good luck finding its address (hint: look for the painted numbers of the curb), and Mama Cass' hipster haven on Woodrow Wilson Drive is lost to either time or flora.

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"For some reason, there's something in the water that you can't eradicate," Walker, himself a Laurel Canyon resident, said. "I get deer and bobcats on my deck, and the Sunset Strip is five minutes away."

Doesn’t matter what's gone, by the way. Go there today to find the spirit of the 60s; you just can't afford to live there anymore. Young girls are passing through the canyon...