Thursday, 14 July 2011

Singing In The Church of Marijuana

Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter

I finished yesterday watching this documentary about Doug Weston's Troubadour club in West Hollywood. It was, for me, an engaging piece focusing in particular on James Taylor and Carol King - I am a big fan of the singer-songwriter music championed there in the early 70s, and especially James Taylor. Other troubadours appearing were Jackson Brown, Dave Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Elton John [seems anathema, but....] and Kris Kristofferson. Other trobairitzs [I've done my pedantic research] were Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt. The programme was skewed narrowly to Taylor and King at the expense of a wider canvas, but it made the programme focused.

My title comes from a technician interviewee who described the whole ambiance of this LA musical universe thus: 'The bedroom was Laural Canyon, the living room was the Troubadour, and marijuana was the church.' That's a succinct magic three in my book.

This West Coast singer-songwriter conclave had its East Coast detractors who referred to it as the 'mellow mafia' and I rather like that appellation, seeing it as an accolade for their collective creative strength rather than the sniping criticism intended.

One other quote from the programme that registered was Kris Kristofferson who said of first seeing Joni Mitchell perform there: 'I thought she was Shakespeare reincarnated.' As a Rhodes scholar I think he's entitled to his hyperbole, and I think he could still kick some ass if challenged on his observations.


  1. I'm sure he could!!! Would really like to have seen this documentary. Which channel was it on? Might be repeated.

  2. BBC3 or BBC4, can't remember which. The dvd has just been released so not sure if they will show again soon, but I know they will at some time. The recording of James Taylor and Carol King's 'reunion' concert at the Troubadour is brilliant, and also shown on one of those channels, as is an excellent programme about the Laural Canyon music scene, though I can't remember the name.