Listen To This Eddie is a weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.
Los Angeles is a city that holds different charms for different people. Maybe you’re a film buff, eager to walk Hollywood Boulevard or scope out some of the sites where some of the most beloved movies of all-time were filmed. Maybe you’re more of a beach bum, eager to stroll the Oceanfront Walk on Venice Beach and hit the boardwalk in Santa Monica. Perhaps you’re a foodie with a whole list of established and up-and-coming restaurants you’re dying to check out. There’s almost no limit to what you can do.
As for me, a [proud] music history nerd, whenever I find myself in the LA area, an inordinate amount of my time is spent catching shows at some of the city’s iconic venues, hitting a few of the renowned recording studios dotted around Hollywood and beyond, or having a drink at one of any bars, restaurants and hotels where so many famed musicians made mischief back in the day.
Whether you’re a native Angelo, or perhaps planning a trip to visit SoCal in the near future, here are a handful of places to check out that played pretty significant roles in the storied history of rock and roll.
3900 W Manchester Blvd, Inglewood
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The Forum in Inglewood, California. One of the most historic venues in the world. Led Zeppelin rocked this joint 16 times in their career, and it's been a dream of mine for pretty much my entire adult life to see a concert here. Tonight it's finally going to happen. Just got a guided backstage tour and I'm freaking out right now.
Practically everyone who’s anyone has played the Forum out in Inglewood. Erected in 1968, the venue began making rock history from almost the minute it opened its doors for the first time. Cream recorded some of their final album Goodbye in this hallowed facility that year. Led Zeppelin played here 16 different times in their career, including a famous gig on June 21, 1977 that was recorded by a bootlegger named Mike Millard and released on the black market under the moniker Listen To This Eddie. Other prominent Zeppelin boots Live On Blueberry Hill and For Badgeholders Only were also captured here. Across the span of decades, the Forum became a choice location for some of the biggest names in music to come, play and roll the tapes. The list of amazing, official live albums produced in it’s hallowed halls includes Kiss’s Alive II, Parliament’s Live, and Before The Flood by Bob Dylan and The Band. I recently caught Eric Clapton here a few weeks back and can definitively call it the best-sounding arena space I’ve ever been to.
Sunset Sound Recorders
6650 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles
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It is actually staggering the number of genre-defining rock records that were either mixed or recorded in this nondescript building just off of Sunset Blvd. I’m just going to go ahead a list a few of them. The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, Prince’s Purple Rain, The Doors’s self-titled debut, The Beach Boys’ immortal Pet Sounds, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album, Van Halen’s first five albums, Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, and on and on, and on. It still operates to this day. When I went a couple of weeks back, all three of its studios were booked up by prominent artists working on their next big projects.
Canyon Country Store
2108 Laurel Canyon Blvd, Los Angeles
“There’s this store where the creatures meet,” Jim Morrison sang on the Doors track “Love Street.” “I wonder what they do in there.” My best guess is the same thing they’ve been doing for the past 60 years and more; buying candy, cigarettes, sandwiches and nice, cool beverages to battle back against the pervasive California heat. Set in Laurel Canyon, this groovy bodega served as the de facto meet-up spot for some of the biggest names in L.A.’s singer-songwriter scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Carole King, The Byrds, The Mamas And The Papas, The Doors, all regularly frequented this joint on the regular. David Bowie was known to pop in every now and again to pick up a Cadbury chocolate bar. Despite its historic significance, it still plays host to some pretty big names in the musical world and regular neighborhood-dwellers alike. Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, met his eventual wife at the Canyon Store a few years back and wrote a pretty amazing song about it.
Andaz West Hollywood
8401 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood
It’s called Andaz West Hollywood today, but back in the ’70s it was officially known as the Continental Hyatt House. Those who stayed there, however, had a different name for it: The Riot House. Room 1015 carries the distinction of housing Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, who decided to do a bit of redecorating back in the day and chucked his television out the window. On the upper floor, Robert Plant gazed out at Hollywood laid out at his feet below and proclaimed from the balcony, “I am a Golden God!” Lemmy wrote “Motorhead” here. Little Richard lived in Room 319 for a decade. Jim Morrison dangled from one of the balconies by his fingertips. And those are just the stories that we know about. The mind boggles at what took place here after the lights went out.
Whisky A Go Go
8901 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood
One of the most widely-recognized club-sized venues in the world, The Whisky first opened its doors back 1964 and has acted as an incubator to some of the biggest movements in rock music from the last 50 years. In the beginning it helped foster a whole slate of ’60s LA rock groups like the Doors, Love, The Mothers Of Invention, and the Byrds before becoming a den of iniquity in the late 1970s and into the ’80s for the burgeoning metal scene, giving bands like Motley Crue, Van Halen and Guns ‘N’ Roses a place to play. Arthur Lee famously immortalized the Whisky one the Forever Changes track “Maybe the People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale” and it remains one of the few buildings inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
The Rainbow Bar And Grill
9015 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood
The Rainbow Bar And Grill opened with a flourish, amidst a party thrown by Elton John all the way back in 1972. It didn’t take very long for it to become the watering hole of choice for some of the heaviest hitters in the rock music scene, and throughout the ’70s it was the unofficial clubhouse for a group of all-stars who dubbed themselves the “Hollywood Vampires.” Among their number included Alice Cooper, Joe Walsh, and John Lennon. In later years, one could regularly find Lemmy from Motorhead smoking a cigarette and nursing a drink while playing video poker at the end of the bar. I once had a chicken parm sandwich and a shot of whiskey here. Wasn’t bad!
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles
The only cemetery actually located in Hollywood, and without a doubt, the final resting place to the largest collection of rock stars and actors in the world. While the list of actors far outweighs their musical brethren, Hollywood Forever houses the final resting place for both Dee Dee Ramone and Johnny Ramone, the latter of which was enshrined with a massive statue of his own visage playing a guitar. Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave was recently laid to rest here as well.
8221 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood
You know that old saying, “If these walls could talk?” Yeah, if only the walls of this nearly 90-year-old building could speak, I’m sure it would have some outrageous stories to tell. Nearly everyone who’s anyone who’s ever picked up a guitar, sang into a microphone, or bashed away on a drum kit has either stayed or partied at this faux French Villa overlooking Sunset Blvd. Jim Morrison called this place home. So did John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Members of Led Zeppelin used to ride motorcycles through the lobby. The comedian John Belushi overdosed and died in Bungalow 3. There’s a sort of omertà when it comes to the Chateau so us mere mortals are left to merely gaze up at its elegant exterior and wonder at the insane levels of debauchery that have taken place inside.
9081 N Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood
The Troubadour is one of the finest places to catch a live show anywhere in Hollywood. Throughout its six-decade life, it’s hosted a whole range of rock royalty who regularly perform in the presence of other members of rock royalty. Elton John, when he first touched down in America in 1970, selected the Troubadour to make his grand debut before U.S. audiences. Drinking buddies John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were both tossed out on their asses after heckling the Smothers Brothers in 1974. When Guns ‘N’ Roses decided to stage a comeback with original members Slash, Axl Rose and Dugg McKagan all back in the fold in 2016, it was at the Troubadour where they performed together for the very first time. Unfortunately, Axl ended up breaking his foot during that show, and was forced to borrow a makeshift throne from Dave Grohl in order to play at Coachella a few days later.
2301 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles
One of the most beautiful and unique concert venues in the world, the very name “Hollywood Bowl” has become synonymous with greatness. In 1964 and ’65, when the Beatles came to America, they had designs on recording a live album and picked this ornate amphitheater to try and make it happen. Unfortunately for them, the manic screams of the mostly teenaged crowd nearly drowned out the sound coming out of the speakers, and the project was ultimately shelved. A half-hour collection of songs was culled and released in 1977 as The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, but it wasn’t until last year’s auditory-enhanced Live At The Hollywood Bowl, tied to the Ron Howard-directed documentary Eight Days A Week, that you could really hear what was going on under all the shrieking. Sadly, the Bowl made history once again last week for hosting the last concert of Tom Petty’s life.
Long Beach Convention And Entertainment Center
300 E Ocean Blvd, Long Beach
A little bit out of town, sure, but the Long Beach Arena became a metalhead haven in the mid-1980s after Iron Maiden recorded their live album Live After Death there. More importantly than that, this venue was the scene of one of the greatest concert meltdowns of all-time, the so-called “Long Night At Wrong Beach.” You see, the Eagles were on-hand to play a benefit gig to help raise funds for California Senator Alan Cranston. The problem was, guitarist Don Felder thought the whole thing was stupid. This pissed off the Eagles leader Glenn Frey and the two verbally assaulted one another throughout the entire show, with Frey promising near the end, “Only three more songs until I kick your ass, pal.” When the show ended, Felder walked off and smashed a guitar on his way out. The band broke apart shortly after that.
Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
1855 Main St, Santa Monica
This sleek, modern venue was built just a few blocks away from the Pacific Ocean in 1958 and quickly became a favorite spot for many traveling musicians to work and perform. David Bowie landed here on October 20, 1972 during his Ziggy Stardust tour, and broadcast his show live to the citizens of L.A. over FM radio. Fortunately, more than a few had the tapes rolling and the subsequent recordings were passed around for years before getting an official release. It was eight years earlier however, that the Civic Auditorium staged its finest performance ever when it opened its doors to the likes of James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys and more for the historic, televised concert revue, the T.A.M.I. Show.
Joshua Tree Inn
61259 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree
Okay, yes, I know Joshua Tree is like, two-and-a-half hours outside of Los Angeles, but if you have the time and a set of wheels, it’s absolutely worth the drive. While you’re out there, I’d recommend staying at the Joshua Tree Inn, a quaint little motel set just a few miles from the National Park proper. It’s famous, or should I say infamous, for housing country-rock icon Gram Parsons on his frequent excursions out into the desert in the early 1970s. Parson’s actually died while staying in Room #8. A touching guitar-shaped monument to his memory was erected in the courtyard of the Inn. While you’re out in the desert however, don’t try and go looking for the specific tree that U2 stood in front of on the cover of their iconic Joshua Tree album. It fell over sometime in 2000 and was hacked up with a chainsaw a couple of years back.
The Record Plant
1032 N Sycamore Ave, Los Angeles
Just like Sunset Sound Recorders, the Record Plant was the facility that so many titans of music decided to assemble their masterpieces. Allow me to once again rattle off just a handful of the era-defining words recorded, mixed or mastered in this one-of a kind studio. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Billy Joel’s Piano Man, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Second Helping, Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4, Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral, Marilyn Manson’s Portrait Of An American Family, and what the hell, both Kanye West’s Late Registration and Graduation albums.
The Roxy Theatre
9009 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood
The Roxy received the christening most venues can only dream of when it opened in 1974. The first performers to ever mount it’s now-venerated stage was Neil Young and his band The Santa Monica Flyers, who were just-then in the midst of one of the booziest, most self-destructive tours of the Canadian’s career, playing songs of his then-unreleased album Tonight’s The Night. It’s legacy only grew from there as hit became one of the centers of the hair metal movement of the 1980s. Perhaps the best performance ever mounted at the Roxy was put on by Bruce Springsteen during his Darkness On The Edge of Town tour in 1978. People were pouring out into the streets to try and get into the club where “The Boss” performed for nearly three hours. The show was broadcast live over KMET FM Radio, and has since circulated amongst collectors as the bootleg No Private Party.
I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t use this space as an opportunity to highlight Tom Petty and his incredible band The Heartbreakers. Many tributes have already been written about Petty in the days following his tragic, all-too-soon death, and much ink has been spilled about his prowess as a songwriter, but I’d like to once again re-iterate how incredible he and his group were as live entertainers. I finally got to saw Petty live for the first time just a few months ago at Wrigley Field after so many years of near-misses. It was, and will forever remain, one of the greatest concert experiences of my entire life.
Petty’s official 2009 Live Anthology record, a four-hour long tour de force of incredible hits and deep cuts, is a great place to start when delving into his onstage legacy, but if you’re looking for that next hit, I’d really recommend checking out this homecoming show he put on at the University of Florida in Gainesville on February 4th, 1993. The energy he and the Heartbreakers summon on this night is stunning. This show was held a literal week before the release of his Greatest Hits CD, and features an ripping rendition of that collection’s bonus tracks “Something In The Air” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” The one-two-three punch of “Drivin’ Down To Georgia” into “Lost Without You” into “Refugee” will also knock you on your ass.