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William McKeen

Everybody Had an Ocean: Music and Mayhem in 1960s Los Angeles

Published by Chicago Review Press

Apr 26, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

As the subtitle to Everybody Had an Ocean suggests, William McKeen attempts to chronicle herein the music and culture, with both its dizzying highs and depressing lows, that developed in Los Angeles in the 1960s. The story he constructs, however, seems to encompass much, much more.

McKeen both begins and ends his book with The Beach Boys, a logical anchor for a tale that carries Los Angeles music and culture from its surf beginnings to its murderous Charles Mason-led end. But along the way, McKeen weaves together a story that becomes a crisscrossed biography of music’s who’s who.

The artists featured include: The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Frank Sinatra (and his son), Bob Dylan, The Byrds, The Mamas & the Papas, Sam Cooke, Elvis, Phil Spector, Neil Young, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Doors, Johnny Rivers, Bobby Fuller, Tommy James, and Joni Mitchell, among others. McKeen succinctly presents each artist’s backstory and formative history and weaves them together under the loose umbrella of Los Angeles affiliation. It would seem, glancing at the artists profiled, that such an expansive book would be either too surface in its examination, too loose in its attempted connection, or simply too weighty.

The question to be asked is: Could any one text undertake such a broad swath (swatch?) of music’s history with any credibility? Believe it or not, the answer is yes. McKeen weaves his tale with a natural storyteller’s grace. His stories will pull you in, and while there may seem to be little relationship among many of the artists profiled, apart from an LA connection, it matters less and less the more one reads.

Everybody Had an Ocean is as engaging a tale of ‘60s-era music as any that one will read. Even the most ardent historian will find something new in the histories presented, or at the very least see them in a new light. And, more importantly, McKeen’s text strips away any pretention from the artists and presents them in a normal, more humanistic light. Words aren’t minced. Feelings aren’t protected under the guise of artistic genius. These were real people, living in real times, with strengths and weaknesses like anyone, displayed under normal, real-life circumstance. Could Everybody Had an Ocean be accused of overreaching? Perhaps. But like the artists he profiles, McKeen reaches for the stars. And for the most part, he gets there. (www.chicagoreviewpress.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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