Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Laurel Canyon Blvd., literally and figuratively the road to fame, fortune, decadence or demise in 1968.

This story was mentioned in here before, but I think it is worthy of repeating.

One of the impacts on the music business by Bob Dylan and the Beatles is that, suddenly, performers had to be the ones who wrote their own songs. Nobody cared who wrote the songs Frank Sinatra sang, by 1966, that had changed.

What this did was twofold, first, it made performers only, like Cher and Tony Bennett, seem cheap, dated and corny and, secondly, it thrust songwriters out on stage, whether they liked it or not, Joni Mitchell did not, Neil Diamond did.

One of these songwriters pushed into the limelight was Randy Newman. From the moment I heard "Sail Away" I was a huge Randy Newman fan. (Once, in Santa Barbara, I literally dragged my girlfriend to go see him. The fact that she fell in love with Randy made her even more appealing)

Randy was revered as a true musical talent by the late Sixties Troubadour/Laurel Canyon crowd. Newman's parents were movie music big shots and Randy was classically trained on the piano at a time when most of the "musicians" fighting for stage time couldn't read one note.

But Randy was also an intellectual who didn't have much in common with the hard partying rockers on that scene. He would attend the parties on Lookout Mountain at Joni Mitchell and "Mama" Cass Elliot's homes, they were sweeter, pot and wine inspired musical improvisations, but Newman was leery of the harder acid/coke/orgy parties hosted by movie producers and movie stars just a wee bit farther down the street. In fact he was warned by "Mama" Cass herself. But he went to one of those parties despite her warning and lived - just barely - to write a song about it:

"Mama Told Me Not to Come" made famous by Three Dog Night.

Nuggets, Ranchers and Slatinos, these are frickin' nuggets.