30 Vintage Candid Photos of Rockstars Living in Laurel Canyon
By Sarah Norman | September 13, 2023
Free love was definitely a thing in the Canyon
In the 1960s and ‘70s, folk musicians, psychedelic rockers, country rockers, and pop groups trying to get a little edge flocked to Laurel Canyon. Rock stars, it seemed, had found their Shangri-La, an idyllic world where a group of disparate friends all grew together to become some of the best known artists of the 20th century. Artists like Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, The Monkees, and Crosby, Stills & Nash all lived within walking distance of one another and would routinely hang out and jam together into the wee hours of the morning. The Laurel Canyon rock star scene was, like the California sound many of them made famous, a mellow affair.
The canyon’s twisted, humpbacked roads, dense eucalyptus, and neighborhoods of hidden homes feels like a woodland, country town that’s a world away from Los Angeles, but it’s somehow only five minutes away from the Sunset Strip. That’s what made the area so charming to the Bohemian artists of the Woodstock generation.
Michelle Phillips, who was married to Mamas and Papas bandmate John Phillips during their heyday, says that for many in the Laurel Canyon area it wasn't really a big deal to sleep with someone outside of your relationship:
I was raised in a very free atmosphere. To me, having an affair was not as serious as it was for the rest of them. The first night we got together, we had all been sitting at the table, and John and Cass’, we looked over, and they were asleep. And that’s when Denny got up and went over to the sliding glass door and off we went. And that’s when he [John Phillips] wrote ‘Go Where You Want to Go.
Graham Nash Wrote ‘Our House’ In A Tiny Home In Laurel Canyon
“Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard. Life used to be so hard. Now everything is easy 'cause of you.” The lyrics to “Our House” by Crosby, Stills & Nash might be the sweetest declaration of domesticity ever set to music and it was written in about 15 minutes in the house that Graham Nash shared with Joni Mitchell. But it almost didn’t come to be, because there were two songwriters in the house and only one piano. Nash said:
It was a small house and it was a thing of, who got to the piano first? She was in the middle of a record and was writing daily; and I was in the middle of a record with David and Stephen and I was writing daily. It just got to be crazy, y’know.
After going on a walk through the canyon and picking up some things for the house Nash got inspired and beat Mitchell to the piano. He said:
I thought, I love this woman, and this moment is a very grounded moment in our relationship. And I sat down at the piano and an hour later ‘Our House’ was done. It was kind of amazing.