When I first came out to L.A. [in 1968], my friend [photographer] Joel Bernstein found an old book in a flea market that said: Ask anyone in America where the craziest people live and they’ll tell you California. Ask anyone in California where the craziest people live and they’ll say Los Angeles. Ask anyone in Los Angeles where the craziest people live and they’ll tell you Hollywood. Ask anyone in Hollywood where the craziest people live and they’ll say Laurel Canyon. And ask anyone in Laurel Canyon where the craziest people live and they’ll say Lookout Mountain. So I bought a house on Lookout Mountain. —Joni Mitchell
Some say the Laurel Canyon music scene began when Frank Zappa moved to the corner of Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon Boulevard in the late 1960s. Former Byrds bassist Chris Hillman recalls writing “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” in Laurel Canyon in 1966 in his house, on a steep winding street with a name he doesn’t remember. The Doors’ lead singer Jim Morrison reportedly wrote “Love Street” while living behind the Laurel Canyon Country Store. Michelle Phillips lived with John Phillips on Lookout Mountain in 1965 during the Mamas and the Papas’ heyday. Books and documentaries have mythologized and romanticized this woodsy canyon nestled behind Sunset Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills. Still, misconceptions continue.
For a start, the scene was more metaphorical than geographical. Nearly everyone who was there was, at one time or another, stoned; nobody remembers everything the same way. What is undeniably true is that from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s some of the most melodic, atmospheric, and subtly political American popular music was written by residents of, or those associated with, Laurel Canyon—including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn, J. D. Souther, Judee Sill, the Mamas and the Papas, Carole King, the Eagles, Richie Furay (in Buffalo Springfield and Poco), and many more. They made music together, played songs for one another with acoustic guitars in all-night jam sessions in each other’s houses. Many of those houses were cottages with stained-glass windows, and fireplaces that warmed the living rooms in the chilly L.A. nights. They took drugs together, formed bands together, broke up those bands, and formed other bands. Many of them slept with each other. The music was mislabeled “soft rock” or “folk rock,” especially in the Northeast, where critics panned it as granola-infused hippie music—too “mellow” and too white. But in truth, it was an amalgam of influences that included blues, rock and roll, jazz, Latin, country and western, psychedelia, bluegrass, and folk. It certainly was a forerunner of today’s “Americana.”
Four decades after those songs were recorded, their harmonies and guitar interplay have influenced such contemporary bands as Mumford and Sons, the Avett Brothers, Dawes, Haim, Wilco, the Jayhawks, and the Civil Wars. (Even the facial hair has made a comeback.) Adam Levine (whose Maroon 5 got its start with a demo paid for by family friend Graham Nash) says, “The vibe of that music, the way it makes you feel when you’re driving in a car—it’s a landscape.” And producer Rick Rubin, who owns “the Houdini mansion,” on Laurel Canyon Boulevard (Houdini actually lived across the street for a brief time in 1919 in a rented house), says, “Laurel Canyon had the cross-breeding of folk with psychedelic rock and created some of the greatest music ever made.”
ELLIOT ROBERTS, manager, Neil Young; former manager, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Eagles: It was a melting pot. People came from everywhere. Joni and Neil were from Canada, Glenn Frey was from Detroit, Stephen Stills and J. D. Souther were from Texas, Linda Ronstadt was from Tucson . . .
DAVID GEFFEN, former agent, Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell; former co-manager, CSNY, the Eagles, Jackson Browne; founder, Asylum Records: I first saw Joni when she played in Greenwich Village—she was a duo at the time with [her husband] Chuck. Then she made a record by herself.
ELLIOT ROBERTS: I saw Joni in New York in 1966 at the Café au Go Go. . . . I went up to her after the show and said, “I’m a young manager and I’d kill to work with you.” At that time, Joni did everything herself; she booked her own shows, made her travel arrangements, carried her own tapes. She said she was going on tour, and if I wanted to pay my own expenses, I could go with her. I went with her for a month, and after that, she asked me to manage her.
DAVID GEFFEN: I was [singer-songwriter] Buffy Sainte-Marie’s agent, and she sent me an advance test pressing of her new album with no information on the label. I called her up and said, “Buffy, I’m insane for your new album—I love it.” She said, “That’s so great—what’s your favorite song?” I said, “ ‘The Circle Game’—that’s the best song on the album.” She said, “Joni Mitchell wrote that.”
JONI MITCHELL, singer-songwriter-guitarist: Elliot, David, and I migrated from New York to Los Angeles. David was my agent; Elliot was my manager. I bought this little house, and David Crosby chided me for it; he said I should have looked around. But I liked that house.
The hill behind my house was full of little artificial man-made caves. The house was charming. I paid $36,000 for it, but I paid it off. I probably paid more for it because I paid it off. It had a fireplace and it was mysteriously protected by a force. My neighbors, who were six feet from my house, were junkies; I was out of town and came back and their house had burned down to the ground.
RICHIE FURAY, singer-songwriter-guitarist, Buffalo Springfield, Souther Hillman Furay Band, Poco: Stephen Stills said, Come out to California—I’ve got a band together. I need another singer. I said, I’m on my way. Once we [Buffalo Springfield] started playing at the Whisky [on Sunset Strip], everybody moved to Laurel Canyon—it was the spot. Neil Young [one of Buffalo Springfield’s guitarists] had been living in his Pontiac hearse, but he moved up to Lookout. But I don’t think Neil ever really wanted to be in a band. He’s certainly proved to be an icon in rock and roll, but Stephen was the heart and soul of Buffalo Springfield.
LAUREL CANYON “WAS A SCENE WITH TALENTED, ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE. AND MANY OF THEM HAD SEX WITH ONE ANOTHER,” SAYS DAVID GEFFEN.
DAVID CROSBY, singer-songwriter-guitarist, the Byrds; Crosby, Stills & Nash; CSNY: After I got tossed out of the Byrds [in 1967], I went to Florida. I’m very romantically inclined and I’d always wanted to get a sailboat and just sail away. I went into a coffeehouse in Coconut Grove, and Joni was singing “Michael from Mountains” or “Both Sides, Now,” and I was just gobsmacked. It just pushed me up against the back wall. Even at the beginning she was very independent and already writing better than almost anybody. I brought her back to California and produced her first album [Song to a Seagull].
RICHIE FURAY: Stephen [Stills] was quite a stylized musician. A lot of people tried to copy him but couldn’t. I think that’s one of the things that made Buffalo Springfield musically click—the different styles that Neil and Stephen played. I just found my little rhythm in there somewhere, kind of the glue that would hold it together.
ELLIOT ROBERTS: We went out to California for Joni to record, and that’s when we took houses on Lookout Mountain, about four houses down from each other. When we were doing that first album, at Sunset Sound, the one Crosby produced, Buffalo Springfield was recording next door. Joni said you’ve got to meet Neil—she knew him from Canada. That night we all went to Ben Frank’s [a coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard], which in those days was one of the only places open around midnight. So I started working with Neil, and pretty soon I had Neil and Joni. Neil was leaving the Springfield—he had left two times before, but this was his final leave. And pretty soon a scene started in Joni’s house—that was the center where we would go all night.
GLENN FREY, singer-songwriter-guitarist, the Eagles: My very first day in California, I drove up La Cienega to Sunset Boulevard, turned right, drove to Laurel Canyon, and the first person I saw standing on the porch at the Canyon Store was David Crosby. He was dressed exactly the way he was on the second Byrds album—that cape, and the flat wide-brimmed hat. He was standing there like a statue. And the second day I was in California I met J. D. Souther.
J. D. SOUTHER, singer-songwriter-guitarist, actor: It all just sort of evolved. There really was no “moment.”
STEPHEN STILLS, singer-songwriter-guitarist, Buffalo Springfield, CSN, CSNY: It wasn’t Paris in the 20s, but it was a very vibrant scene.
GLENN FREY: There was just something in the air up there. I came from Detroit and things were flat. [In Laurel Canyon] there’s houses built up on stilts on the hillside and there’s palm trees and yuccas and eucalyptus and vegetation I’d never seen before in my life. It was a little magical hillside canyon.
CHRIS HILLMAN, singer-songwriter-guitarist, the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Souther Hillman Furay Band, Desert Rose Band: Before rock and roll, Laurel Canyon had a lot of jazz guys and a bohemian Beatnik-type thing. Robert Mitchum got arrested for marijuana there at a party in 1948.
JONI MITCHELL: My dining room looked out over Frank Zappa’s duck pond, and once when my mother was visiting, three naked girls were floating around on a raft in the pond. My mother was horrified by my neighborhood. In the upper hills the Buffalo Springfield were playing, and in the afternoon there was just a cacophony of young bands rehearsing. At night it was quiet except for cats and mockingbirds. It had a smell of eucalyptus, and in the spring, which was the rainy season then, a lot of wildflowers would spring up. Laurel Canyon had a wonderful distinctive smell to it.
JONI MITCHELL: I had met Graham Nash in Ottawa and then re-met him in California. David was producing my first album, and all these people were here. . . . I do believe I introduced them at my house; that’s where Crosby, Stills & Nash was born.
STEPHEN STILLS: I always had a place in my heart for alley cats, and David was really funny. We would scheme about a band, and one night at the Troubadour I saw Cass, who I hadn’t seen for a while, and she said, “Would you like to have a third harmony?” I said, “I’m not sure—it depends on the guy, the voice.” So she said, “When David calls you to come over to my house with your guitar, don’t ask—just do it.” I knew that the queen bee had something up her sleeve, and, sure enough, David calls me and says, “Get your guitar and come to Cass’s house.” I can see it now—the living room, the dining room, the pool, the kitchen—and we’re in the living room and there’s Graham Nash. Then Cass goes, “So sing.” And we sang “In the morning, when you rise . . . ”
GRAHAM NASH, singer-songwriter-guitarist, the Hollies, CSN, CSNY: Stephen’s completely out of his mind. I remember it clearly and so does David. It was not at Mama Cass’s. We did sing at Cass’s. But not the very first time.
JONI MITCHELL: Well, there could be some overlap, because we did hang out at Cass’s too. But the first night they raised their voices together I do believe happened at my house. I just remember in my living room the joy of them discovering their blend.
STEPHEN STILLS: David and Graham insist that they took me to Joni’s, which I knew was impossible because Joni Mitchell intimidated me too fuckin’ much to sing in front of her. None of those books have got it right, because every one of us has a different memory. I don’t have Cass around to back me up; she remembered everything exactly.
GRAHAM NASH: It was thrilling and liberating for me, because I’d spent my formative years with the Hollies, who weren’t trusting me anymore, not wanting to record my songs like “Marrakesh Express.” Then, all of a sudden, there were David and Stephen saying, That’s a great song—we could sing the shit out of that.
DAVID CROSBY: When Neil [Young] joined [to form Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young], Neil didn’t think it was a group. For him, it was a stepping-stone. He was always headed for a solo career; we were a way to get there. Which doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a fantastic musician and songwriter and a force in CSNY. There was a point where I think we were the best band in the world.
Listen: The Laurel Canyon Playist
DAVID CROSBY: Cass was such a funny and vibrant person and somebody you definitely wanted to hang out with and talk to. She knew everybody and everybody liked her.
MICHELLE PHILLIPS, singer-songwriter-actor, the Mamas and the Papas: It was very lax at Cass’s house when she moved to Woodrow Wilson. Ashtrays were overflowing. She would let people write their phone numbers and messages on her walls with felt pens. She smoked a lot of pot. I wasn’t into food at that point in my life, but there were a lot of grown men there, so there must have been food. They probably called down to Greenblatt’s Deli and had 20 different platters of sandwiches brought up.
GRAHAM NASH: For me it was all a fantasyland. People were asking me for my opinion, saying why don’t you try this harmony part. It was a very freeing time in Los Angeles; it was an incredible place to be, America. The phone rang like it did in the movies. And you know, take-out food? What an incredible concept.
MICHELLE PHILLIPS: Cass’s house was the biggest mess I have ever seen a house be in my life. She never cleaned, never tidied up, never did the dishes, never made her bed. I remember going to her house in Stanley Hills before she moved to Woodrow Wilson. I got to her house and she wasn’t home, so I decided to jimmy the window and get in. You know those huge, giant, industrial-size jars of mayonnaise? She had dropped one on the floor and just left it there. I cleaned up her entire kitchen, her entire house; it took me, like, three and a half hours. I just kept cleaning until it was spotless. Then I walked out the door, closed it, and never said a word to her.
Everyone was single. Everyone was in their 20s. They could all hang out all night long. And, according to Jackson Browne, “Everybody slept with everybody. It was a time of sexual revolution and pre-AIDS. But it wasn’t pre-venereal disease; we had a soft spot in our hearts for the free clinics.”
LINDA RONSTADT, singer-actor: Well, who are you going to date—the dentist? But if you were smart, you didn’t mess around with anybody in your band. If you were smart.
PETER ASHER, singer-guitarist, Peter and Gordon; producer-manager for James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt: Linda had been working on tracks with producers John Boylan, John David Souther, and somebody else—all of whom were her boyfriends—and it wasn’t working out very well. I came in initially as a producer and then she asked me to be her manager. Linda and I were never boyfriend and girlfriend, which is probably a good thing—incredibly hot though she was.
BONNIE RAITT, singer-songwriter-guitarist: J.D. [Souther] is one of the greatest songwriters and a wonderful guy and a terrific singer. And of course he and Linda were an item for a long time. He’s just part of the family.
STEPHEN STILLS: I missed a lot of the scene because I was going back and forth to New York to see Judy [Collins].
The Snob’s Dictionary: Laurel Canyon’s Chill, Open-Door Music Scene
JUDY COLLINS, singer-songwriterguitarist: Stephen was in my band. It was after Buffalo Springfield broke up and before he put CSN together. We were falling in love and having this hot affair. I fell in love immediately. Four days after Robert Kennedy was assassinated.
DAVID GEFFEN: It was a scene with incredibly talented, attractive people. And many of them had sex with one another. Who wouldn’t? It was after birth control and pre-AIDS. It was a different world.
ELLIOT ROBERTS: A lot of that incestuous stuff [that’s been written about Joni and David Crosby and Graham Nash]—that never happened.
JONI MITCHELL: David Crosby and I were never a couple. We spent time together in Florida and he was off drugs and very enjoyable company at that time. We rode bicycles through Coconut Grove and went boating. But David’s appetites were for young harem girls who would wait on him. I would not be a servant girl. I had a child-like quality that made me attractive to him and my talent made me attractive. But we weren’t an item; I guess you could call it a brief summer romance in Florida.
DAVID CROSBY: I wanted to be with a great number of women. I was very entranced with Joni when I was with her, but she had her own plans. Graham was unquestionably the best thing that ever happened for her.
Watch and Listen: Let’s Take a Trip to Laurel Canyon
JONI MITCHELL: Graham and I fell in love, and he got sick and I Florence-Nightingaled him back to health. We were a good couple. I cooked for Graham, but the trouble was he’s from Manchester, and he liked gray, wrinkled peas from cans. And I like fresh peas from the market. I like to cook—I got quite zaftig, actually. But when he started doing coke, he had no appetite.
GRAHAM NASH: Joni and I had something very special. I was very privileged to have spent the one and a half, two years that I spent with her.
With the Vietnam War, and Richard Nixon in the White House, it was a time of protest. And whether it was Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” (which writer Stephen Stills says was actually about a “funeral for a bar” when police closed the Pandora’s Box club, on Sunset Strip, in 1966) or Neil Young’s “Ohio” (after the 1970 Kent State shootings), the songs reflected the activism in the air.
DAVID GEFFEN: The music in the 1960s and ‘70s influenced people’s lives, influenced the culture, influenced politics. The difference between then and now is the draft. A volunteer army doesn’t get the same level of protest. When I was young, everybody wanted to pick up a guitar. Now everybody wants to work at Goldman Sachs.
“WHAT JONI MITCHELL DID WAS FAR AND ABOVE WHAT MOST OF THE GUYS COULD DO AS A SONGWRITER OR GUITAR PLAYER,” SAYS CHRIS HILLMAN.
DAVID CROSBY: The draft made it personal. And it made every college campus in America a hotbed of anti-war activism.
ELLIOT ROBERTS: It was such an exciting time, because we felt we were making change. Between Vietnam and the Black Panthers and civil rights, we were kicking shit up. A lot of kids who were going up to Canada [to avoid the draft] would come to our shows.
J. D. SOUTHER: The other thing you have to remember is that in those days people thought their votes counted for something. Now kids think that no matter who’s in the White House he’s still an asshole.
ELLIOT ROBERTS: David and I were friends from New York; he was from Brooklyn, I was from the Bronx, and we both had worked at talent agencies. He came out to L.A. when I was managing Joni and Neil and CSN. One night we were going to a birthday party, and I picked David up at his house on Sunset. When we got to the party, he said, “Don’t get out of the car for a second.” He said he’d been thinking that we should partner up and be Geffen-Roberts. I said I didn’t know. And he said, “Elliot, don’t be stupid.”
DAVID GEFFEN: We were very young. But I thought Elliot and I did a very good job. We really were flying by the seat of our pants; we were learning on the go. We invented it as we went along.
ELLIOT ROBERTS: David was such an influence and such a guiding light, the way he approached everything. I just didn’t have his balls.
JACKSON BROWNE, singer-songwriter-guitarist: David really had good taste in songs. I mean, to have your first artist be someone as incredibly gifted and as fully developed as Laura Nyro. . . . He was like a kingpin in between these really creative people and an industry that was not used to letting musicians do everything on their own terms.
DAVID CROSBY: We knew we were in a shark pool, and I’ve said it before: we wanted our own shark. We thought David was a guy who was hungry and voracious, that Elliot would be the mensch and David would be the shark. In the long run, Elliot became a shark, too. What I liked best about David was that he loved Laura Nyro and really wanted her to succeed. He took me to meet her in that little penthouse she lived in in New York and I was just blown away by her. She was such a sweetheart and so strange and talented.
DAVID GEFFEN: At Geffen-Roberts, we had no contracts with any of our artists. If they wanted to leave, they could leave on a day’s notice.
JACKSON BROWNE: I’ve seen David have arguments with his clients, but then, if someone else would put any of them down, he would take them to the mat. He was very loyal to his clients. And he probably could still hum you their songs.
IRVING AZOFF, co-owner, Azoff MSG Entertainment; current manager, the Eagles: By the time I arrived at Geffen-Roberts in 1973, David had already left to run the record company [Asylum], so I basically became the touring guy. The greatest gift David and Elliot gave me was that I saw the future with the Eagles, who, at the time, were managed by Geffen-Roberts. I was their age and they really appealed to me. And I got to go on the road with Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. To this day, you put me around Neil Young and I’m gaga.
PETER ASHER: Elliot is brilliant. Hippie chaos, but let’s not forget he’s a brilliant chess player. And David could do relatively outrageous things. But by the end of a phone conversation with David you’re thinking he didn’t do anything wrong. Then, after you hang up, you go, Wait a minute—how did I get talked out of that? He can be very convincing.
JACKSON BROWNE: David finally said he was going to start his own record label so he could make the records he wanted to make. In that way, he has more in common with those indie guys—he’s like the father of indie music.
DAVID GEFFEN: The music business was beginning to become big business. In 1972, when I sold Asylum Records for $7 million, the highest price ever paid for a house in Beverly Hills at that time was $150,000. The last year Elliot and I were in partnership—1971–1972—we earned $3 million. It was a lot of money, but I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I had sold the record company; I was just going to run the record company and Elliot would run the management company. I gave him my half [of the management company] for nothing, and I said, “Elliot, I’m giving it to you—just don’t call me about any problem with these guys.” And of course, he did.
CHRIS HILLMAN: I think the West Coast was more open to ladies in the business. I mean, what Joni Mitchell did was way far and above what most of the guys, myself included, could do as a songwriter or guitar player.
DAVID CROSBY: When I was with Joni, I’d write a song like “Guinnevere”—probably the best song I ever wrote—I’d play it for her, and she’d say, “That’s wonderful, David, here, listen to these ones.” Then she’d sing me four that were that good. It was a humbling experience for a writer.
JONI MITCHELL: As a girl, I was kind of allowed to be one of the boys. I was told that boys were able to be themselves around me. Somehow I was, in my youth, trusted by men. And I was able to be a catalyst in bringing interesting men together.
JACKSON BROWNE: It was the beginning of very big changes in the way women were regarded by society. It was a huge step forward in independence from religious dogma and there was no hierarchy there. If anything, women had more power than they’d ever had.
MICHELLE PHILLIPS: Cass was unique in the sense that she had some money, she had a lot of friends, and she was not dependent on John [Phillips].
BONNIE RAITT: It didn’t feel like a boys’ club to me, because there were really cool women who were hanging out with these guys. Joni was absolutely as original and deep and brilliant as anybody I had heard. She made a huge impact on all of us. And Emmylou Harris, Maria Muldaur, Nicolette Larsen, Linda Ronstadt, me—we were all part of that group.
LINDA RONSTADT: The good thing about musicians in terms of making advances in racial discrimination or sexual-gender identification is that musicians don’t give a shit as long as you can play. If you could play, hallelujah.
J. D. SOUTHER: Linda had a huge effect on me. She really gave me and Warren Zevon our careers because she cut so many of our songs. We were always grateful. She had good ears to spot the songs, and then she knew which ones she could sing.
JONI MITCHELL: My talent was kind of mysterious in that it was unorthodox. I can tell you I had a good right hand. There is a picture of me with Eric Clapton and David Crosby and Mama Cass’s baby on the lawn of Cass’s house, and Eric is just staring at me playing guitar and David looks proud, like the cat that ate the cream.
GLENN FREY: In 1974, I moved to a place at the corner of Ridpath and Kirkwood in Laurel Canyon, and we had poker games every Monday night during football season. Notorious card games. Joni Mitchell got wind of those card games, and she always was a good hang, so she started coming every Monday night and playing cards with us. We’d watch football from six to nine and then play cards until the wee hours. They called our house the Kirkwood casino.
J. D. SOUTHER: When Glenn and Don [Henley] had those poker nights and football nights, Linda and I moved to Beachwood Canyon, [so as] not to be living in that boys’ club over there in Laurel Canyon.
IRVING AZOFF: If you wanted to play there, you signed those contracts. David and Elliot thought it was an injustice to the acts, so with Lou Adler and [club owner] Elmer Valentine, they opened the Roxy.
LOU ADLER, producer, the Mamas and the Papas, Carole King: We opened the Roxy so we could give the artists a better dressing room, a better sound system, a better contract.
DAVID GEFFEN: Doug Weston would not play David Blue. He didn’t like David Blue. I said to him, “I don’t care if you like David Blue or not; he’s one of our artists, and if you want Joni or Neil or Jackson, you’ll play David Blue.” He said, “I’m not playing him.” So we opened our own club. Then, a week after we opened the Roxy [and its private upstairs club, On the Rox], I got a call from Ray Stark complaining that he didn’t like his table. Then I got a call from someone else saying the drink was shit. So I sold my interest to Elliot.
ELLIOT ROBERTS: We needed an alternative venue that was cool for our bands. The Troubador was 150 to 170 seats, the Roxy 600. It was that simple. I saw a documentary that said we declared war on Doug Weston—the most insane, idiotic thing. Who the fuck had time in those days?
LINDA RONSTADT: The Eagles had seen a lot of other bands break up, come together, and break up—like Poco and the Burrito Brothers. There had been a lot of versions of that country-rock sound. It finally coalesced because it found a groove with Don Henley.
GLENN FREY: When we got to Geffen-Roberts, in 1971, CSN were the big thing and we watched them. I watched them carefully—what they did right and what they did wrong.
CAMERON CROWE, former music journalist; film director and Oscar-winning screenwriter: At the time [the Eagles] were the little kid brothers looking for the respect of Neil Young. Glenn saw where Poco had failed and they could succeed. Taking the best of Poco and CSNY and putting it together to take it as far as it could go. CSN weren’t thinking about business as much as Elliot and David were. They were about the music. But the Eagles were about both.
CHRIS HILLMAN: I have great respect for the Eagles, for Henley and Frey, and I love the original band. What they did was take all those influences—but they did it right. They were smarter than we were. In the Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons and I wrote good songs, but we didn’t have that work ethic.
GLENN FREY: I kept my eye on everybody’s careers. I read the backs of albums like they were the Dead Sea Scrolls. CSN hung the moon. They were like the Beatles for about two years.
STEPHEN STILLS: [The Eagles] certainly destroyed us at the box office. We have to get Neil and stay out a long time to make that kind of money.
CAMERON CROWE: Glenn and Don were never embraced as songwriters the way they should be. You’d catch shit for loving the Eagles as much as you loved CSNY.
J. D. SOUTHER: The press didn’t like the Eagles, because Irving Azoff wouldn’t let them talk to the press.
IRVING AZOFF: I loved Crosby, Stills & Nash, but the Eagles were saying something different. The Eagles were that post-Woodstocky thing. They were writing about lines on the mirror. They were guys’ guys. It was more like a fraternity.
DAVID GEFFEN: I remember everything, because I was not stoned.
BONNIE RAITT: Partying became a nuisance and self-destructive if you let it go on. By the time you’re at it for 10 or 15 years, it’s going to look different on you in your mid-30s than it did in your 20s.
PETER ASHER: This is the contradiction, isn’t it? They said the music was “mellow,” but these weren’t particularly mellow people. There was quite a lot of cocaine involved—which is not renowned for a mellowing effect.
DAVID CROSBY: Drugs were a bad influence on everybody. I can’t think of a single way that hard drugs ever helped anybody.
JONI MITCHELL: Cocaine just puts a barrier up. Where Graham and I had been a real couple, very close, suddenly there was this barrier. People were more secretive about drugs back then. I never was much of a druggie. Cigarettes and coffee—that’s my poison.
JUDY COLLINS: A lot of people used a lot of drugs. I was up to my eyeballs drinking. I wouldn’t use anything else seriously, because I really didn’t want to have my drinking interfered with.
DAVID GEFFEN: They all made a lot of money. They didn’t all keep a lot of money. David Crosby went through an incredible fortune; look what he went through to finally get his act together—he had to go to jail.
LOU ADLER: The hippie version of freedom in the 1960s was breaking down the Establishment. Well, we were buying houses in Bel Air; we were becoming the Establishment.
BONNIE RAITT: Once people get successful, they move to more expensive Zip Codes, and nobody does the hang anymore. The early days of being single and in your early 20s was a really golden era where all of us had less responsibilities than we did later. Once people started having kids, they moved to areas where the schools were good.
ELLIOT ROBERTS: The scene broke up because you became adults. We were all in our early 20s when there was that scene—all kids in their early 20s have a scene. All of a sudden you have a girlfriend or you’re getting married. By 30, 35, the scene is gone. You have families, kids, jobs. You buy a house. You want to get guitar lessons for your kid and a Bar Mitzvah. When you’re 20, it’s O.K. for eight people to crash in a living room, six on a floor. At 35 you’re not crashing anymore—your back hurts.
MICHELLE PHILLIPS: Before 1969, my memories were nothing but fun and excitement and shooting to the top of the charts and loving every minute of it. The Manson murders [in the summer of 1969] ruined the L.A. music scene. That was the nail in the coffin of the freewheeling, let’s get high, everybody’s welcome, come on in, sit right down. Everyone was terrified. I carried a gun in my purse. And I never invited anybody over to my house again.