“Echo In The Canyon"

Jakob Dylan, Steve Stills, Tom Petty
Interview with Jakob Dylan
“Expecting To Fly”, song
Short interview


A couple of reactions. First, neither Los Angeles nor Laurel Canyon are “on the edge of the wilderness”. On the other side of Laurel Canyon is the San Fernando Valley with dozens of cities. The canyon itself is a few blocks north of Sunset. There are coyotes there, and also in Sunny Hills, La Habra Heights and Laguna Canyon, for example, Once you’re inside Laurel Canyon, especially at night or if it’s overcast or foggy, you may have the feeling of being in the country, but you're in the middle of Los Angeles with many millions of people. Until about 1920, many of the towns and communities actually were on the edge of a relative wilderness, including Westwood, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Malibu, Temescal Canyon or Hollywood, but that's long past. We’re not talking about rural Montana here. 

Second, Jakob Dylan and others use the term “loss of innocence” to describe the experience of living in Laurel Canyon and even in being part of the music scene in the late 1960s. This requires a little explanation. Most of these people had been in more than one band, had traveled extensively in the United States and Europe; been married once or twice; had used recreational drugs, so to speak; had seen life in New York City, San Francisco or other major cities, and so on. They are not babes in arms, or a group of young Irish nuns from the countryside visiting a museum in Los Angeles, or Cub Scouts.

Their so-called “loss of innocence” means being disappointed and disillusioned by the crassness of the music industry; seeing dozens of their friends die from drug overdoses; reacting to the drawn out Vietnam War and the protest movement; seeing or hearing about riots in American cities; going through the Watergate scandal; and the failure of an Age of Aquarius or a Woodstock Society to take hold. Loss of innocence is an ancient theme in at the arts, and Jackson Browne is another artist who features it in his music. So does Neil Young, with his songs like “Needle And The Damage Done”, and “After the Gold Rush”. 

This sense of loss, or imagined loss -- or loss of hope, rather than actually losing something they had -- is pervasive in West Coast rock and folk of that period. It's also a theme of growing up, of setting aside childish things, of facing adulthood, so even younger artists like Jakob Dylan will deal with it in their music. We do, too, as alumni of Sunny Hills, when we talk about how pretty and quiet Sunny Hills once was, how bucolic with Ranch Town and the lake and Jimmy Smith's and the Barn, and all the pretty young girls  (who are now grandmothers, retired from long careers) on horses. 

Before long, we’ll talk about 2019 that way, when most of us were still here, when we had reunions, when our grandchildren were small, when we met for lunch, went sailing, and so on. It's a mode of human perception.