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Harvey Kubernik: Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop & Roll In LA 1956-1972

Album Review

Exhaustive examination of LA’s musical pioneers.

Studiously avoiding the conceivably over-documented Laurel Canyon era to instead concentrate on the lesser-known background movers and shakers in LA’s incipient rock’n’roll scene, Kubernik’s insider status has furnished a treasure trove of material.

Hundreds of interviews combine to form an oral history, wonderfully illustrated with a plethora of unpublished photos, flyers, ticket stubs and more. The photos are a delight (the lion’s share taken by the legendary Henry Diltz) – Jack Nicholson hanging backstage with Mike Nesmith, a youthful Sonny Bono with a shy and demure Cher – and tell a story as engaging as the text. 

Charting the teenage cultural revolution from Brylcreem and root beer to Vietnam and the draft through the radio stations, backing singers, producers and DJs, it’s strong on detail, anecdote and contextualisation. 

Quite why Los Angeles became a “musical jar of lightning”, as Tom Petty has it in his foreword, is thought-provokingly speculated upon (climate, proximity to the ocean, the newness of the city, a magnet for migrants), but whatever the case, Kubernik has produced a chronicle equal to the city’s legendary reputation.

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