Los Angeles is often held up a perfect example of the American dream gone bada sprawling urban symbol of everything that is garish, shallow, and self-centered in our popular culture. While many Americans are loath to confess any interest in the city at all, it has proven mesmerizing to British writers. Here Hoskyns (Across the Great Divide, LJ 9/1/93) has produced an enjoyable overview of the city's musical history. Beginning with the R&B club scene that thrived on Central Avenue in the 1940s, Hoskyns chronicles the rise of such artists as the Beach Boys, Phil Spector, and the Doors, providing interesting (and often gossipy) details about the musicians and their record deals, recording sessions, and chart performances. He also covers the emergence of country rock and the Seventies punk scene, concluding with a brief overview of West Coast rap. Though the appendix listing popular songs with L.A. themes is unnecessary, the book, overall, includes a wealth of detailed information. Recommended for popular music collections. (Index not seen.)Rick Anderson, Penacook, N.H.
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 all-white Hollywood hit-makers could afford to be oblivious to the Watts riots, 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 '70sby such artists as the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, and Fleetwood Macwas 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.