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LAist Interview: Michael Walker

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As any Angeleno will tell you, Los Angeles is less a unified city than an assemblage of distinct districts and neighborhoods. Due to the fame or notoriety of its inhabitants, some L.A. neighborhoods take on mythic status. Michael Walker, a journalist who resides in Laurel Canyon, explores the legendary attraction and inspiration his neighborhood--if you can call winding canyons a neighborhood- held for a generation of rock and roll legends, their fans and assorted SoCal bohemians.

Michael's book " Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood,” contains rare photos of the area in the 60s and 70s as well as stories from its denizens about what really went down there. Michael has a companion blog that features details about life in the canyon in the present day as well as audio interviews with musicians like Graham Nash and Chris Hillman about their times in the area in the 70s.

Tomorrow, we'll continue our LAist Interview with Michael as he answers questions in the guise of a Laurel Canyon resident, circa 1973.

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How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?
12 years, Laurel Canyon.

Why do you live in Los Angeles?
I got tired of living in New York, though I miss it terribly.

What inspired you to write "Laurel Canyon"?
I wanted to read a book about the canyon but couldn't find one. So I wrote my own.

How difficult was it to obtain the photographs in the book?
Thanks to Henry Diltz, who was sort of the canyon's court photographer, it was a pretty easy, though choosing was hard; he and his assistants and I spent an afternoon pawing through his archives, this great treasure trove of the '60s and '70s rock scene in L.A. So many of Henry's photos are almost iconic; I was trying to find some that hadn't been used before. Still, I couldn't resist his famous photo of Joni Mitchell leaning out the window of her bungalow on Lookout Mountain.

How did/does Laurel Canyon inspire musicians?
Well, the sheer physical beauty of the place in an urban landscape as unsparing as L.A.'s is inspiring itself. But you have to remember that in the '60s there were no cell phones, no Web, no email, even no answering machines. It forced people out of their houses and encouraged collaboration. Laurel Canyon enhanced that by the proximity of so many grossly talented musicians living literally across the street from each other. There was a lot of hanging out that you see less of today because people can email and text message and send not only ideas but photos, songs, whatever, instantly. Or write and play all the instruments for songs themselves with ProTools. That would have been unimaginable back then.