Everybody Had An Ocean: Music and Mayhem in 1960s Los Angeles by William McKeen

I’ll quote a few blurbs from the back of the dust jacket and then addΒ aΒ fewΒ thoughts.

A widescreen, meticulously researched account of how Los Angeles — the seedbed of surf pop and folk rock — became the epicenter of American music in the 1960s. McKeen follows the thread from the Beach Boys’ sunny innocence to Manson’s noir horrors — via Phil Spector, Jim Morrison, and a supporting cast of hundreds — and brings the music of the City of Angeles brilliant to life. (Barney Hoskyns, author of Waiting for the Sun and Hotel California)

Everybody Had an Ocean offers a detailed snapshot of the creative fertility, debauchery and importance of a signal moment in pop music history. Highly recommended. (Charles Granata, author of Wouldn’t It Be Nice)

… a fascinating, hypnotic look at the underside of the California dream. With smooth prose and keen reporting, William McKeen peels back the facade of peace and love and thoroughly examines the dark heart behind a generation of music… (Michael Connelly)

… Once again, the Beach Boys reign supreme. (Douglas Brinkley)

As the title suggests, Everybody Had an Ocean concentrates on the Beach Boys, especially Brian and Dennis Wilson. But all kinds of musicians appear, including Bob Dylan and the Beatles. If you already know a lot about a particular musician or group, you probably won’t find much new here. The main thing I learned about the Beach Boys was that Dennis Wilson and Charles Manson spent even more time together than I realized. On the other hand, I learned quite a bit about Jan and Dean, the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds and the Doors (as well as the Manson “family”).

The book’s prose is not “smooth”, however. The author often resorts to distracting clichΓ©s and slang expressions, especially when he’s discussing who was having sex with who. In general, it could have used a better editor. But if you’re interested in the music of that time and place, Everybody Had an Ocean is worth reading.

Woody Guthrie Didn’t Have a Home in This World Anymore

The story goes that when Woody Guthrie was on the road in the 1930s, he heard people in the migrant camps singing an old Baptist hymn called “This World Is Not My Home”Β (sometimes also called “I Can’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore”). It’s a song about the better world to come. Here’s how it begins:

This world is not my home, I’m just passing through
My treasures and my hopes are all beyond the blue
Where many many friends and kindred have gone on before
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Over in Glory land, there is no dying there
The saints are shouting victory and singing everywhere
I hear the voice of them that I have heard before
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Guthrie didn’t like the other-worldly message at all, so he wrote new lyrics, turning it into a protest song, “I Ain’t Got NoΒ Home in This World Anymore”:

I ain’t got no home, I’m just a-roamin’ ’round,
Just a wandrin’ worker, I go from town to town.
And the police make it hard wherever I may go
And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.

My brothers and my sisters are stranded on this road,
A hot and dusty road that a million feet have trod;
Rich man took my home and drove me from my door
And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.

Was a-farmin’ on the shares, and always I was poor;
My crops I lay into the banker’s store.
My wife took down and died upon the cabin floor,
And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.

I mined in your mines and I gathered in your corn
I been working, mister, since the day I was born
Now I worry all the time like I never did before
‘Cause I ain’t got no home in this world anymore

Now as I look around, it’s mighty plain to see
This world is such a great and a funny place to be;
Oh, the gamblin’ man is rich an’ the workin’ man is poor,
And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.

He could have written that last verse yesterday.