Film

Echo in the Canyon

Of Byrds and Beach Boys

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Early in the fascinating documentary Echo in the Canyon, rock legend Eric Clapton describes why, at the start of his career, he gravitated to the hilly Los Angeles enclave of Laurel Canyon. “I was attracted to eccentrics,” he says, “and they were all there.”

The eccentrics to which he is referring made up some of the greatest talents of the folk rock era covered in the film’s 1964-68 time frame. These include such luminaries as David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Brian Wilson, Roger McGuinn, and Graham Nash, all of whom are interviewed in the movie. Several artists-in-residence who came later, such as Jackson Browne, are also featured. Others, most conspicuously Joni Mitchell, are not.

If you care anything about the music of groups like the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Mamas and the Papas, the Beach Boys, or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the ramshackle, engagingly anecdotal Echo in the Canyon is required viewing. Directed by the veteran music industry producer Andrew Slater and featuring Jakob Dylan, Bob Dylan’s gifted musician son, as a kind of master of ceremonies, it offers up a cross section of reminiscences from that era intercut with appearances from a newer generation of artists, including Beck, Regina Spektor, Norah Jones, the late Tom Petty, and Jakob Dylan himself. We also see clips from a 2015 tribute concert in Los Angeles featuring many of these younger musicians covering songs from those Laurel Canyon years.

What makes this more than just a movie for fans of that music is that it delves into what made that era such a creative cauldron, comparable in some ways, as the film points out, to Paris of the 1920s and ’30s. It’s certainly possible to experience this film as a vast nostalgia trip. But Slater and Dylan don’t overdo the hearts and flowers. The musicians featured here are important because their music was important.

Laurel Canyon was geographically close to the music industry and yet tucked away in the Hollywood Hills. The camaraderie among resident musicians in those years was strong enough that, as Nash tells it, you could knock on any door and say, “Hey, listen to this.” Drop-in visitors included Ringo Starr, who talks about his admiration for the Byrds and amusingly about the difference between the laid-back atmosphere of LA recording studios and their fussy British counterparts. Starr also pays tribute to the Beach Boys, whose classic album Pet Sounds, with its interlocking narratives, was a prime influence on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Brian Wilson, in turn, talks about how the Beatles’ album Rubber Soul influenced Pet Sounds.

The ways in which these artistic inspirations abounded and cross-fertilized is the central theme of Echo in the Canyon. Perhaps by necessity, this approach downplays some of the darker aspects of that era. Drug anecdotes are mostly presented lightheartedly, and Wilson’s harrowing psychological battles go unremarked. Including such material would have made for a richer panorama, but the focus here is on the conviviality of those Laurel Canyon years and the creative ferment and idealism that came out of it. As Nash says, looking back, “I still believe music can change the world.”

More Film...
Cold Case Hammarskjold
Cracking a conspiracy

If you’ve seen The Red Chapel or The Ambassador, you already know that a common reaction to the documentaries of Danish filmmaker Mads Brugger is, “I’m not really sure what I just watched.”

Brugger is a journalist and a fabulist, a provocateur and a comedian. He makes films that…

more »
Mike Wallace Is Here
The hero we need

At first the title seems too simple, if not a bit stilted, especially for those who had never heard the name: Mike Wallace Is Here.

Yet as the documentary about the hard-hitting TV newsman soon makes clear, those are the four words no crooked politician or conniving businessperson ever…

more »
Good Boys
Out of the mouths of babes

A nearly one-note comedy about a trio of 12 year-old boys who will do anything they must to get to a “kissing party” attended by the girl one of them adores, Gene Stupnitsky’s Good Boys has an endless fascination with hearing preteens curse. Is it funny the first and fourth and…

more »
Events
Today
The Spitfire Grill

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Guided Adventures

12:00pm|Skyline Marina

An Iliad

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

The Phantom Tollbooth

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Dynamic Duos

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #154

Fidalgo Bay Day

9:00am|Fidalgo Bay Resort

Lake Whatcom Park Trail Build

9:00am|Lake Whatcom Park

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am|North Fork Library

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Concrete Saturday Market

9:00am|Concrete Community Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market2333

9:00am|Riverwalk Park

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

The art of arrangement

10:00am

The Flower Festival

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Lynden Farmers Market

10:00am|Centennial Park

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am

Airfest

10:30am|Bellingham International Airport

Cemetery Tours

11:00am|Lynden Cemetery

Weavings Pop-Up Sale

11:00am|Vida Nueva Rugs

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Modern Quilts Final Weekend

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Sumi Fun for All Ages

1:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Summer Jazz Combo

2:00pm|Jansen Art Center

The Poetic Apothecary with Judith Adams

3:00pm|Upper Skagit Library

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Summer Fun in the Park

4:00pm|Blaine's Marine Park

Janie Cribbs and the T.Rust Band

5:30pm|Heart of Anacortes

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Lummi Island Crabfest Dinner

6:00pm|Lummi Island Grange Hall

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Tomorrow
The Spitfire Grill

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Guided Adventures

12:00pm|Skyline Marina

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

The Phantom Tollbooth

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Weavings Pop-Up Sale

11:00am|Vida Nueva Rugs

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Modern Quilts Final Weekend

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Birchwood Farmers Market

10:00am|Park Manor Shopping Center

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Community Free Market

11:00am|Flora Street

Dog Days of Summer

11:00am|Whatcom Humane Society

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Big Band Bonanza

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Skagit History Cruise

1:00pm|La Conner Channel Lodge

Summerfest

1:00pm| Josh Vander Yacht Memorial Park

La Conner Live!

1:00pm|Gilkey Square

Skagit History Cruise

1:00pm|La Conner Channel Lodge

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

International Concerts on the Border

2:00pm|Radost Folk Ensemble

Monday
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Bark Week

12:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Camp Korey Classic Golf Tournament

12:00pm|Eaglemont Golf Course

Poetrynight

7:00pm|Alternative Library

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »