Barney Hoskyns

Barney Hoskyns co-founded and editorially directs the online music-journalism library Rock’s Backpages. He is the author of, among other books, Waiting for the Sun: Strange Days, Weird Scenes & the Sound of Los Angeles (1996), Hotel California: Singer-Songwriters & Cocaine Cowboys in the LA Canyons (2006) and the Tom Waits biography Lowside of the Road (2009). He lives in East Sheen, southwest London.



"The City That Celebrates Itself: Los Angeles on Los Angeles"

Why has Los Angeles inspired more songs than any other city on earth? Is it because, unconsciously, people move there in order to write about it? Or is it, ironically, because this sprawling assortment of "suburbs-in-search-of-a-city" barely exists as a bona fide metropolis?

Through examining a variety of songs from different eras and genres I shall argue that after the Beach Boys' "California Girls" and the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreaming", L.A. became a unique site of fantasy and makeover – a place to which musicians as different as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell (or the Doors and the Eagles) moved in order to be reborn as Californians.

Although native Angelenos Randy Newman and Tom Waits threw the real L.A. back in the world's face (through songs such as "I Love L.A." and "Heartattack and Vine"), the Sunset Strip fantasy of drugs, blondes and convertibles prevailed through local scenes like Paisley Underground psych-pop, Orange County beachcore and South-Central gangsta rap … and clings to life to this day.

Yet thanks to East Side Angelenos like Beck Hansen, Los Angeles has slowly become a music city like any other, as hipster-infested as New York or London or Seattle or Austin. With the SoCal tropes of the '70s and '80s affectionately sent up by yacht rockers and Ariel Pink alike, the city's musical identity is ever more polyglot and eclectic, undermining the white hegemony of its pop and rock legacy.

What future, then, for El Lay's self-constructed mythologies of surf, freeway rock and canyon introspection? In the seamlessly-connected digitopia of 2012, are all cities becoming the same?

My Speakers Sessions

Sunday, March 25

4:00pm EDT