Stop, What’s That Sound? Only the Echo in the Canyon

Rockumentary wanders around a storied LA locale.

Echo in the Canyon, the latest in an apparently endless line of cinematic hints that the pop music of 50 years ago was infinitely superior to the pop music of today, has an interesting, if obscure, point to make: some of the most exciting tunes of the 1960s came from the folk idiom, beginning with Bob Dylan. Further, folk-rockers at the same time set up their own pickin’ and grinnin’ colony in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon.

Who says so? Andrew Slater, a former president of Capitol Records; and Jakob Dylan, son of Bob. They’re so entranced by the putative rock-folk connection that they assemble major talking heads — Brian Wilson (Beach Boys); Ringo Starr (Beatles); producer Lou Adler; Michelle Phillips (The Mamas and The Papas); David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills & Nash) — plus Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, whose piercing 12-string guitar intro for “Turn Turn Turn” opens the proceedings on a high note.

It’s common knowledge that musicians steal riffs, lyrics, and even clothing from their contemporaries. Slate and Dylan’s theory is that Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan led to both the Beatles and the Byrds, who led to “California Dreamin’,” which led to Buffalo Springfield, etc. This is backed up by the elders’ testimony, alongside new versions of old tunes from a 2015 concert featuring Jakob Dylan, Cat Power, Beck, Regina Spektor, Jade Castrinos, and Fiona Apple.

How the filmmakers came to the conclusion that Jacques Demy’s 1969 film Model Shop — set in Los Angeles and starring Gary Lockwood — dovetails into the gestalt is anybody’s guess. Trivia question for experts: What nationally known politician also lived in Laurel Canyon in the days of “For What It’s Worth”? 

Andrew Slater and Jakob Dylan appear in person at Landmark’s Shattuck in Berkeley on Friday, June 7, 9:00 p.m.

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