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Everybody Had an Ocean: Music and Mayhem in…

Everybody Had an Ocean: Music and Mayhem in 1960s Los Angeles

by William McKeen

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ile this book covers the Los Angeles music scene of the 60s, the backbone of the book is the story of the Beach Boys. Beginning with their early teen days of using music to keep their brutal, abusive, father from beating them, to the days when they worked with Jan and Dean, and then the LA studio musicians that were known as the Wrecking Crew (a crew that included Glen Campbell and Leon Russell), the book takes side roads through music other than surf pop. The Greenwich Village folk scene that spawned Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, and Cass Elliot. The “race music” that black musicians were putting out, mainly in the south. The various permutations Crosby, Still, Nash and Young, including bands before, during, and after. Frank Sinatra, which rather baffled me, although he was producing music that got played on the rock stations (and a chapter on how his son was kidnapped). Phil Spector and his Wall of Sound. The sex and drugs. How Charles Manson drifted around in the music world, living in Dennis Wilson’s house with his who knows how many girls, and getting a recommendation from Neil Young (the producer passed). Through the various chapters, the story returns again and again to the Beach Boys. The final chapter updates us on what happened to all those people, ending, as it began, with Brian Wilson.

I picked this book up as being of just passing interest; I was never into the surf and car music of the early 60s. But I saw that it was about more than that, so I figured I’d give it a try. I ended up not being able to put it down. It seems like the entire rock music industry was interconnected. It’s well written, entertaining (albeit depressing a lot of the time, but that’s what happened), and apparently well researched. This isn’t a memoir from someone who was there; McKeen is a professor of journalism, so I assume he takes a neutral approach to the material. Five stars. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Oct 14, 2017 |
I love the music of the 60's and was ecstatic when I had a chance to read and review this book. My older brother and cousins helped my get hooked since I was a child of the 70's. This book focuses on California's influence on the small bit of time that made the music of the era what it was. It starts with the surf music of The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, gives you the background on how Blues and Soul music worked their way into the sound of the times, followed by the changes brought about by the British Invasion. As a die-hard Monkees fan, I was thrilled with the few paragraphs about the band since they are very overlooked in books on the era. It even brings up the end of the 60's peace and love generation by bringing Charles Manson's musical aspirations into parts of the book. The book uses The Beach Boys as it's central focus and the other groups weave in and out as the author plays a game of "6 degrees of separation" with primarily Brian Wilson at its center. I learned quite a few things about these groups and really loved reading the book. ( )
  Diana_Long_Thomas | Apr 1, 2017 |
In his Author's Note, William McKeen really got my hopes up. He begins the book with an anecdote about hanging out in Dennis Wilson's hotel room, the writes that for years he'd been "stockpiling" stories about the Los Angeles music scene in the 1960s. I thought that this meant that he was going to share previously unpublished tales based upon his own work as a journalist. No such luck. Instead, in Everybody Had an Ocean McKeen shares stories gathered from a lifetime of reading rock 'n' roll memoirs. He recycles the gossipy bits from a wide array of previously-published works, including Brian Wilson's discredited "autobiography" Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story.

The bottom line here is that underneath the sunny "fun, fun, fun" on the surface of Southern California in the 1960s, there was a dark undercurrent of "dread," symbolized most obviously by the Manson Family murders. I think this point may have been made before. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a one-volume compendium of stories about The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Phil Spector, the Byrds etc., this may be your book.

A side note: This book's official publication date is not until April 1, 2017, but it was available for checkout at my local library almost a whole month prior to that. I read the actual book, not a prepub. ( )
  akblanchard | Mar 11, 2017 |
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Los Angeles in the 1960s gave the world some of the greatest music in rock 'n' roll history: "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and the Papas, "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds, and "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys, a song that magnificently summarized the joy and beauty of the era in three and a half minutes. But there was a dark flip side to the fun fun fun of the music, a nexus between naive young musicians and the hangers-on who exploited the decade's peace, love, and flowers ethos, all fueled by sex, drugs, and overnight success. One surf music superstar unwittingly subsidized the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr. The transplanted Texas singer Bobby Fuller might have been murdered by the Mob in what is still an unsolved case. And after hearing Charlie Manson sing, Neil Young recommended him to the president of Warner Bros. Records. Manson's ultimate rejection by the music industry likely led to the infamous murders that shocked a nation. Everybody Had an Ocean chronicles the migration of the rock 'n' roll business to Southern California and how the artists flourished there. The cast of characters is astonishing--Brian and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, eccentric producer Phil Spector, Cass Elliot, Sam Cooke, Ike and Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, and scores of others--and their stories form a modern epic of the battles between innocence and cynicism, joy and terror. You'll never hear that beautiful music in quite the same way.… (more)

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