How do you define a scene? Usually, it begins with a great migration—and the emergence of Los Angeles as a pop cosmos is no different. As the music industry shifted coasts in the mid-’60s, it also got sucked into a Midas vortex where everything seemed to turn into gold, kicking off a journey from creative innocence to the corporatization of rock.
This process is portrayed by the BBC documentary Hotel California: LA from the Byrds to the Eagles, which covers a magical yet overwhelming decade of pop music whose rapid changes sometimes make it feel more like a lifetime. Based on Barney Hoskyns’ book of the same name, the film is based on testimonies of those who lived through it (David Crosby, Bonnie Raitt, David Geffen, Pamela Des Barres, Jac Holzman, and J.D. Souther, among many others). They provide a critical and insightful look at the legendary Laurel Canyon scene from the psych folk explosion to cocaine-tainted country rock. And how what started as a wholesome refuge eventually ended up a dark place of egomania and privilege. Luckily, the music that soundtracks it all is fantastic.