Headpress Books Established 1991

Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon

Lauel Canyon, Covert Ops & the Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream

The very strange but nevertheless true story of the dark underbelly of a 1960s hippie utopia.


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Laurel Canyon in the 1960s and early 1970s was a magical place where a dizzying array of musical artists congregated to create much of the music that provided the soundtrack to those turbulent times. Members of bands like the Byrds, the Doors, Buffalo Springfield, the Monkees, the Beach Boys, the Turtles, the Eagles, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Steppenwolf, CSN, Three Dog Night and Love, along with such singer/songwriters as Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, James Taylor and Carole King, lived together and jammed together in the bucolic community nestled in the Hollywood Hills.

But there was a dark side to that scene as well. Many didn’t make it out alive, and many of those deaths remain shrouded in mystery to this day. Far more integrated into the scene than most would like to admit was a guy by the name of Charles Manson, along with his murderous entourage. Also floating about the periphery were various political operatives, up-and-coming politicians and intelligence personnel — the same sort of people who gave birth to many of the rock stars populating the canyon. And all the canyon’s colorful characters — rock stars, hippies, murderers and politicos — happily coexisted alongside a covert military installation.

  • Unlike the Haight-Ashbury scene that followed it, the Laurel Canyon music/hippy scene of the 1960s and 1970s is a story that remains largely unknown.
  • An account told from an entirely different perspective.
  • The only book that doesn’t shy away from the more controversial aspects of the canyon scene.

David McGowan

DAVID McGOWAN was born and raised in Torrance, California, just twenty miles south of Laurel Canyon. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in psychology in 1983, and he ran a small business in the greater Los Angeles area from 1990 until his death in 2015. He was the proud father of three adult daughters. He was also a lifelong music fan who frequently kept his radio tuned to classic rock stations. McGowan’s previous books include Programmed to Kill: The Politics of Serial Murder and Understanding the F-Word: American Fascism and the Politics of Illusion (second edition forthcoming). McGowan’s work and website Center For An Informed America are now maintained by his eldest daughter.


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