Hollywood Eden: Electric Guitars, Fast Cars, and the Myth of the California Paradise

House of Anansi. Apr. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781487007218. $28. MUSIC
Hollywood quickly wrested the title of movie capital of the world from New York, it was decades before the music industry achieved a similar presence on the West Coast. When the California sound finally caught on, it took the nation by storm, and popular music hasn’t been the same since. Many will associate the music of California with the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, and the Byrds; however, the always engaging Selvin (Fare Thee Well: The Final Chapter of the Grateful Dead’s Long, Strange Trip) posits that Jan Berry (of Jan and Dean fame) was the spark that ignited the California sound. Selvin persuasively argues that when Berry and others applied late doo-wop and R&B to California surfing and car culture, they produced the music that most embodied the hopes and dreams of postwar American youth. The book is full of fascinating, larger-than-life characters such as R&B musicians Sam Cooke and Tina Turner; producers Phil Spector, Lou Adler, and Herb Alpert; devious record moguls, agents, and hangers-on; fresh-faced young stars; and the mighty presence of one verifiable genius, Brian Wilson. And Selvin follows the trajectory of Jan and Dean, who, in Jan’s case, emulated their hit “Dead Man’s Curve” far too closely.
VERDICT Behind the scenes it wasn’t always fun, fun, fun, but fans of late ’50s and ’60s pop will feel like they’ve caught the perfect wave.
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