ON BOOKS: ‘Rock Me’ describes the golden year of Los Angeles

It’s tempting to think of Los Angeles as a factory town that makes entertainment products. We stereotype it as a haven for hacks and studio suits, the final stop on the sell-out. It has been called a cynical closed shop since “The Day of the Locusts”.

James Ellroy – since his move to Denver – remains his local poet. A newspaper magnate I know once cruelly said that he would never invest in a rag there because it was not profitable to write for people who moved their lips while reading.

LA is plastic. LA is kitsch. LA lacks the authenticity of New York, Chicago, New Orleans or even San Francisco.

But there was a time when LA was the cultural engine of the country, if not the world. Something happened in Hollywood in the early 1970s. The French New Wave spawned “Bonnie and Clyde,” which gave birth to “Easy Rider,” heralding an age of film brat writers making deeply personal films for discerning adult audiences. Films like “Chinatown”, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/oct/03/rock-me-details-golden-year-of-los-angeles/”Shampoo “and” The Godfather, Part II . “

A cadre of musicians at Laurel Canyon specialized in a very special type of singer-songwriting that hit a sweet spot for the baby boom generation. David Geffen was an ascendant; Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt recorded for his Elektra / Asylum Records. So do the eagles.

Even the vast wasteland of network television was powered. In 1974 the CBS Sunday evening lineup consisted of “All in the Family”, followed by “M * ASH”, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/oct/03/rock-me-details-golden – year-of-los-angeles / “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, https: //www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/oct/03/rock-me-details-golden-year-of-los-angeles / “The Bob Newhart Show” and “The Carol Burnett Show”. Archie Bunker may have lived in Queens, but all of these shows were produced in Los Angeles.

In his new book, “Rock Me on the Water: The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television and Politics” (Harper, $ 29.99), political journalist Ronald Brownstein identified 1974 as the “glittering 12 months” that defined Los Angeles have: //www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/oct/03/rock-me-details-golden-year-of-los-angeles/ “magic hour.”

It would be arbitrary to narrow the LA renaissance to a single calendar year, so Brownstein doesn’t – he sees 1974 as the year many trends metastasized, but one could just as easily argue for 1972 or 1973 as the peak of the influence of the left coast.

But Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” came out in 1975, and that signaled the end of that short creative film window as Hollywood began to understand the wisdom of the blockbuster. It made more economic sense to appeal to the lowest common denominator with a big thrill of a film than to bet on messy writers selling certain visions.

And after a short time in Geffen’s stable, where he released the inconspicuous “Planet Waves”, Bob Dylan returned to Columbia Records in 1975 and released what is arguably the best record of his career: “Blood on the Tracks”, recorded in New York and Minneapolis. (Geffen removed “Before the Flood,” the great live album Dylan recorded while touring with The Band in 1974.)

Brownstein, a political analyst for The Atlantic and CNN who also worked for the Los Angeles Times for many years, cites the election of future Linda Ronstadt friend Jerry Brown as governor of California in 1974 as evidence of the rise of LA’s cultural hegemony at.

It’s an interesting idea, and Brownstein is very good at describing Southern California’s strange political culture that served as an incubator for extremism and a certain type of Orange County Republicanism that stifling Jackson Browne – one of several key interviews Brownstein conducted found.

One of the best chapters in the book (each of the 12 chapters corresponds to a month that plays out a major event) questions Jane Fonda’s political awakening through the lens of her marriage to activist Tom Hayden, the former 1960s radical who got around to try to change the system from within.

While the political revolution, which sometimes seemed inevitable in the late 1960s, never came, the culture as a whole absorbed the hippies’ permissive attitudes towards sex and drugs. And this sensitivity continues to shape our art and politics. Brownstein is best when he writes about the friction points between culture and politics.

In retrospect, it is not difficult to see why so many creative people gathered in Los Angeles in the early 1970s; it had the advantage of the climate and the infrastructure. The film business was already established there.

A native of New York, Neil Diamond sang “I Am … I Said” in one of his more personal songs: LA is fine, the sun shines most of the time / And the feeling is “laying back” / Palm trees are growing and rents are low. ..

In the next breath, Diamond allows him to think about making his way back.

Los Angeles has always had something provisional, a certain uprooting of the place, perhaps appropriate to a city built on stolen water and oversized egos. It’s both the loneliest American city and the cruellest. And, as Brownstein points out, it was having its magical hour.

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