In June of 2005 Ry Cooder released a concept album entitled CHAVEZ RAVINE which chronicles the conspiracies and cover-ups surrounding the destruction of a Mexican-American community called Chavez Ravine in 1950s Los Angeles to make way for Dodger Stadium. The album has an impressive novelistic scope that vividly captures the tone and tenor, the excitement and tragedy, of living in Los Angeles at that time. Cooder manages to weave an impressive array of disparate elements into this musical web, many of them of intense interest to cryptoscatologists and integral to understanding the unique culture of 1950s Los Angeles: UFO flaps, Red Scare paranoia, rampant corruption at City Hall, J. Edgar Hoover’s iron-tight grip on the U.S. justice system, assassination attempts galore, and potentially fatal political conspiracies.
This album ended up exerting quite an influence on my forthcoming book Spies & Saucers (due to be published in August of this year) which shares with Chavez Ravine several different eccentric obsessions such as 1950s Los Angeles, UFOs and political conspiracies of all sorts.
Here’s one track from the album, “DON’T CALL ME RED,” about the successful campaign to paint Frank Wilkinson (who, in the early ‘50s, was the assistant director of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles) as a Communist saboteur in order to derail his plans to, in Ry Cooder’s words: “…build utopian, low-rent housing in Chavez Ravine. Today, you can drive to the result. Strike one.”
And as an added bonus, a second song: “EL U.F.O. CAYO,” about a close encounter of the third kind amidst the soon-to-be-bulldozed Chavez Ravine....