'Hotel California' is an undeniably great read. British music writer and critic Barney Hoskyns has pieced together an in-depth account of the scene that surrounded musicians that flocked to the canyons of Los Angeles in the late sixties and early seventies and it is a wonderful insight into what was - initially at least - a golden period in American music.
Songwriters and musicians including Joni Mitchell, the Eagles, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young were just a few of the great names to emerge from this melting pot. Hoskyns documents the artistic, bohemian beginnings of the Southern Californian sound and how it became a cash-crazed and drug-soaked victim of its own success. Alongside the artists, he writes about the role that managers David Geffen - who founded Asylum Records in 1971 - and Elliot Roberts played, encouraging and developing creative talent and destructive ego alike.
There are anecdotes aplenty. When Joni Mitchell broke up with Graham Nash and, amidst band uproar, got together with Stephen Stills, their despairing manager Roberts was told to: "Cheer up, you're gonna get at least three great songs out of this." Another canyon inhabitant was Charles Manson, the man behind the Manson Family murders of Sharon Tate and her friends in 1969. During Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's 1974 bloated 'Doom Tour', Joni Mitchell recalls, people were doing so much cocaine that they were walking onstage with nosebleeds.
Personalities and relationships drive 'Hotel California' and Hoskyns, as can be seen from the endnotes, quotes extensively from interviews with many of the protagonists that he conducted from the early 1990s onwards. Without sacrificing readability, it is this range and depth of research that makes 'Hotel California' such a thoughtful and considered evaluation of events. And one that will have you listening to all your old Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Flying Burrito Brothers albums in a whole new light.