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The Byrds

Echo in the Canyon: Thin on the ground

Riley Riley

You might think the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards is rock n’ roll’s ultimate bad boy. But you’d be wrong.

That particular honour goes to David Crosby of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash and living large fame, who has spent time in the clink for drugs and firearms offences.

Crosby, now a portly 81 and looking a lot like Santa, is a key figure in the rock music documentary Echo in the Canyon (2018).

Directed by Andrew Slater, it explores the influence of the 1960’s California music scene on the direction of modern music, with Laurel Canyon centre of the action.

It became a magnet for aspiring bands and musicians from 1965 to 1967, who flocked to LA with dreams of becoming the next Beatles — spearheaded by folk rockers The Byrds.

The songs from that era provide a launching pad for Bob Dylan’s son Jakob and fellow musicians who interpret and perform many of these classic tracks, culminating in a concert at LA’s Orpheum Theatre.

Dylan, who made a name for himself as a member of the Wallflowers, talks with many of the stars from that period, at least those of them still standing.

They include producer Lou Adler, The Beatles’ Ringo Star, The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian, Cream’s Eric Clapton, The Mamas and the Papas’ Michelle Phillips, along with the aforementioned Crosby and cohorts Stephen Stills and Graham Nash.

Input is provided by contemporary artists such as Tom Petty (now deceased), Jackson Browne, Beck, Norah Jones, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, Cat Power and Jade Castrinos.

While it’s an interesting, entertaining and perhaps selective look at this formative era of pop music, the film has been criticised for omitting the music of other rock luminaries who lived in the Canyon back then, including Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, The Doors’ Jim Morrison, as well as Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork from The Monkees.

Surprisingly, Graham Nash who was shacked up with Joni Mitchell at the time, never once mentions her.

Perhaps fees were involved or maybe they just didn’t want to take part?

Terry Melcher and Byrds Gene Clark and David Crosby in 1965
Terry Melcher with Byrds Gene Clark and David Crosby in 1965.

 

There’s no mention either of Byrds’ producer Terry Melcher, who some believe was the real target in the 1969 Manson murders.

Son of actress Doris Day, Melcher produced The Byrds’ first two albums Mr. Tambourine (1965) and Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965).

The producer met with Manson at 10050 Cielo Drive, the home that he shared with girlfriend, actress Candice Bergen — the same address where Sharon Tate and four others were later killed in a home invasion.

However, Echo in the Canyon includes some great anecdotes from Ringo Star about a visit he and George Harrison paid to The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz, Michelle Philips’ confession that she was a free spirit who had many relationships and Eric Clapton’s story about the time Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were raided by the police.

The dialogue in Echo in the Canyon is not scripted and some of it is a bit lame. Some even makes the stars sound childish and poorly informed.

Dylan’s reaction, or should we say lack of reaction, to a profound statement by Graham Nash about the ability of music to change the world is disappointing to say the least.

The film opens with Tom Petty and Jakob Dylan checking out amps and Rickenbacker guitars in a music store and is in fact dedicated to the memory of Petty who died of a drugs overdose in 2017 before its release.

In contrast the closing credits show a solo, balding Neil Young delivering one of his manic guitar solos, that quite frankly in this context makes him look pathetic — maybe it’s payback for not playing ball?

Update: Sadly, it has been announced that David Crosby has passed away after a long illness.

Popular music has lost one of its all time greats.

Echo in the Canyon is not available to stream, but can be rented for a small price from Google Play, YouTube, Amazon or Apple TV.

Here’s a list of the songs featured in the film:

  • “Turn, Turn, Turn”, The Byrds
  • “Wild Mountain Thyme”, The Byrds
  • “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, The Beatles
  • “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, The Byrds
  • “Bells of Rhymney, Pete Seeger”
  • “It Wont Be Wrong”, The Byrds
  • “California Girls”, The Beach Boys
  • “Sloop John B”, The Beach Boys
  • “In My Room”, The Beach Boys
  • “You Still Believe in Me”, The Beach Boys
  • “Pet Sounds”, The Beach Boys
  • “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”, The Beach Boys
  • “Dedicated to the One I Love”, The Mamas & the Papas
  • “California Dreamin”, The Mamas & the Papas
  • “Monday, Monday”, The Mamas & the Papas
  • “Boys and Girls Together”, The Mamas & the Papas
  • “Go Where You Wanna Go”, The Mamas & the Papas
  • “Your Gonna Lose that Girl”, The Beatles
  • “If I Needed Someone”, The Beatles
  • “You Showed Me”, The Turtles
  • “Bluebird Revisited”, Stephen Stills
  • “Questions”, Stephen Stills
  • “Black Queen”, Stephen Stills
  • “The In Crowd”, Ramsey Lewis Trio
  • “Never My Love”, R. Address, D. Addrisi
  • “Somebody Groovy”, The Mamas & the Papas
  • “I Feel a Whole Lot Better”, The Byrds
  • “Goin’ Back”, C. King, G. Goffin
  • “Triad”, The Byrds
  • “What’s Happening?!?!”, The Byrds
  • “Ding Dang”, The Beach Boys
  • “Expecting to Fly”, Neil Young

 

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Riley