Los Angeles in the 1960s gave the world some of the greatest music in rock ’n’ roll history: “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, and “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, a song that magnificently summarized the joy and beauty of the era in three and a half minutes.
But there was a dark flip side to the fun fun fun of the music, a nexus between naive young musicians and the hangers-on who exploited the decade’s peace, love, and flowers ethos, all fueled by sex, drugs, and overnight success. One surf music superstar unwittingly subsidized the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr. The transplanted Texas singer Bobby Fuller might have been murdered by the Mob in what is still an unsolved case. And after hearing Charlie Manson sing, Neil Young recommended him to the president of Warner Bros. Records. Manson’s ultimate rejection by the music industry likely led to the infamous murders that shocked a nation.
Everybody Had an Ocean chronicles the migration of the rock ’n’ roll business to Southern California and how the artists flourished there. The cast of characters is astonishing—Brian and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, eccentric producer Phil Spector, Cass Elliot, Sam Cooke, Ike and Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, and scores of others—and their stories form a modern epic of the battles between innocence and cynicism, joy and terror. You’ll never hear that beautiful music in quite the same way.