by Hannah B
As well as authoring several books David McGowan has written a hugely successful (free) web series titled Inside the LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation.
He was recently interviewed by Aaron Franz on Trans Resistor Radio (interview links are below).
In the interview David discusses his research for his Laurel Canyon series which has turned up many fascinating and alarming facts, not least the staggering number of icons of the 60′s hippie/ folk/ rock/ counter culture who came from high ranking military/ intelligence backgrounds.
Some of the musicians, actors and general ‘scene-sters’ mentioned by David include Jim Morrison (pictured below), Frank Zappa and his wife Gail Zappa, Vito Paulekas, John Phillips, Cass Elliott, Michelle Phillips, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Charles Manson, Neil Young, Carl Franzoni, Marlon Brando, Crosby , Stills and Nash, Jimi Hendrix, Captain Beefheart and The Monkees.
Of course coincidence theorists would have you believe this was all the result of some massive, unseen ‘coincidence’. A coincidence which also had them all congregate simultaneously and without precedent in a remote area of LA known as ‘Laurel Canyon’ at a time when there was no real music scene to speak of in LA to draw them there.
But nevertheless arrive they did – coming from all over America (most notably the washington DC area) – and after setting up residence in Laurel Canyon they began defining the music, fashion and values which would lay the foundation for youth culture for the next decade, a foundation which in many respects still defines youth culture to this day.
Also discussed in this interview are the shocking number of bizarre and violent deaths which occurred in and around Laurel Canyon throughout this era of ‘flower power’ and ‘peace and love’ as well as numerous cult and occult goings on. Other strange facts uncovered by David include the existence of a top secret military base (‘Lookout Mountain Laboratory’, operational at the time but now converted to housing) which sat right in the centre of Laurel Canyon itself.
Admiral George Stephen Morrison (father of Jim Morrison)
This whole subject becomes even more fascinating when you consider that the anti-war/ anti-establishment movement initially started out as a pretty grown up, well informed, political and ‘straight laced’ affair with college professors, intellectuals and students all standing together in condemnation of government policy and government corruption (which was being exposed in spades at the time). Only later on did this movement get ‘invaded’ by thousands of long haired hippies armed with acoustic guitars and reeking of patchouli oil and weed.
This background coupled with David McGowan’s research (which is extensive) does raise some seriously ‘far out’ questions.
One thing we do know is that the 60′s counter culture soon became weighed down by self indulgent excess and disillusionment. And after they failed to change the world with songs and drug taking (all led, as it now seems, by the sons and daughters of the military/ intelligence community) we were all left with a depressing legacy: the idea that moral integrity, idealism and trying to affect social change for the better is essentially a futile endeavour undertaken only by naive and misguided souls …. “after all, just look at what happened to all the hippies”.
If it was all contrived for the purpose of disempowering the youth and breaking their spirit it does all seem to have worked spectacularly well. After the disillusionment turned into frustration (rock) and then temper tantrums (punk), the youth appeared to pretty much give up on the whole idea of trying to change the world – or even seeing it as their world to change. And, as if being rewarded for this act of surrender and regression back into a form of childhood (ie dependency), the digital age arrived and we all got to play with loads of new toys which have kept us all fairly content, distracted and entertained ever since.
For the last couple of decades having ‘freedom of expression’ (freedom to play) seems to have replaced having a genuinely free society (freedom to live) as young people’s main concern. Although it must be said that our priorities do seem to be swinging back the other way again now that Orwell’s boot is beginning to stamp on our faces with increasing vigour.
David McGowan’s series is as witty and entertaining as it is factual and hard hitting. It is quite simply essential reading.
Parts 2 to 20 can be found here
Once you’ve read David’s series you may (or may not) find yourself questioning more recent events and trends in popular music and culture, such as…