11 Rock & Metal landmarks to check out when you’re in Los Angeles
By Darren Paltrowitz
As the city with the second largest metro population in the United States, it is not particularly surprising that Los Angeles is at the center of the music industry. In turn, L.A. happens to be where a lot of your favorite artists cut their teeth, musically speaking. On behalf of PleaseKillMe.com, here are 11 metal-related landmarks for a heavy metal tourist to check out when next in Los Angeles:
A bar and restaurant on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood, the Rainbow Bar & Grill opened in 1972. Before becoming The Rainbow, the spot was known as the Villa Nova. One of the first notable cliques to gravitate toward The Rainbow in the 1970s was The Hollywood Vampires, which then included Alice Cooper, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, and Micky Dolenz.
In a more metal direction, when Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister was not on tour, he spent more evenings than not at The Rainbow within the last two decades of his life. Lemmy had the restaurant featured in Motörhead’s “Rock Out” music video, while Guns N’ Roses included it in its “November Rain” and “Estranged” videos. Dinner is still served at The Rainbow seven days a week, and this writer recommends the pizza.
Andaz West Hollywood:
Initially known as the Gene Autry Hotel in the early 1960s, today’s Andaz West Hollywood also used to be the Continental Hyatt House, the Hyatt On Sunset, and the Hyatt West Hollywood. It hosted Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Rolling Stones numerous times in the 1960s and 1970s. Rock pioneer Little Richard called the hotel home base at points in the 1980s and 1990s.
On the metal end, this hotel is where the aforementioned Lemmy Kilmister wrote the song “Motorhead.” It is where the end-of-tour rooftop party scene from This Is Spinal Tap was filmed. It was also where Slipknot’s Corey Taylor nearly committed suicide. As nice as the hotel has gotten in recent years, there are definitely rock vibes emanating from within.
Whisky A Go Go
A nightclub in West Hollywood, the Whisky A Go Go first opened in 1964 as The Sunset Strip Whisky. The venue was instrumental in launching the careers of The Byrds, The Doors, Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention, Janis Joplin, and Buffalo Springfield. It also helped popularize go-go dancing.
On the metal end, The Whisky is where Metallica’s members first saw bassist Cliff Burton, who was then playing in the band Trauma. Over the years it would host System Of A Down, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses, Linkin Park, and Mötley Crüe. When Guns N’ Roses announced its reunion tour in March 2016, The Whisky was the site of GNR’s April 1st warm-up gig.
If you are a fan of the movie The Decline Of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years – the film which helped director Penelope Spheeris land Wayne’s World – then you ought to be very familiar with the building where 1 Oak currently stands. Previously this spot was home to Gazzarri’s, which first opened in 1967. The venue helped inspire several music-based TV shows, including Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, The Monkees and The Partridge Family.
As documented in The Decline Of Western Civilization, Gazzarri’s played host to Van Halen, Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, and Ratt in their early days. The success of those hair-metal pioneers led to the “pay-to-play” concept, which would contribute to the demise of the Sunset Strip scene. Gazzari’s eventually became home to The Key Club, which was the site of live releases by W.A.S.P., Cinderella and Pennywise. The Key Club also played host to Prince for one night in 1988. The spot is now known as 1 Oak.
1124 N. Clark, Apartment #205
Speaking of Mötley Crüe, 1124 North Clark Street may look like just another apartment building on a sloped street. But apartment number 205 is where the members of the Crüe lived together in 1981 and 1982 before finding massive success. Located down the block from The Whisky, it made for a quick commute for Nikki Sixx and his bandmates. W.A.S.P.’s Blackie Lawless, then close with Sixx, also lived at 1124 North Clark.
Just down the block from “the Mötley House” is 1114 North Clark Street, where members of Guns N’ Roses would live before achieving fame.
Located on Wilshire Boulevard in West Los Angeles, Madame Wong’s West was regarded as a legendary punk rock hangout. Owned and operated by Esther Wong, Madame Wong’s had hosted gigs by The Ramones, The Knack, The Police, The Go-Go’s, X, Black Flag and Fear. A lot of footage for the original Decline Of Western Civilization movie was filmed at Madame Wong’s.
The spot unofficially (and briefly) reopened in 2009 when several tenants who lived in an apartment that occupied the premises hosted concerts in their living room. Participating artists included Vampire Weekend, Devendra Banhart, Wavves and The Growlers.
Capitol Records Building
Located in the middle of Hollywood, the Capitol Records Building first opened in 1956. Meant to visually resemble a stack of records on a turntable, the building is not only home to Capitol Records, but also home to Capitol Studios. While those studios are well-known for hosting recording sessions for the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys and Nat King Cole, they are also where songs by Iron Maiden, Slayer, The Beastie Boys and Muse were tracked.
The Capitol Records label – now part of the Universal Music Group – has plenty of metal connections. Megadeth, Alice In Chains, Exodus, Otep, Queensryche, and W.A.S.P. have all spent time within the Capitol fold. So if you can arrange for entry into the Capitol Records Building, just think about all of the interesting stop-bys that likely occurred within that circular building.
The Chateau Marmont
If you are a big fan of old Hollywood, then you should be very familiar with the Chateau Marmont. First built in 1929, the hotel is somewhat based on France’s Château d’Amboise. It is where countless film stars have lived, and also sadly where John Belushi died in 1982.
Surprisingly, the posh hotel has also been home to many metal-friendly moments. Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham notably rode his motorcycle through the lobby. As documented in his memoir, Billy Idol nearly got into trouble for walking around there naked in the early 1980s. The group Death Grips filmed their “Come Up And Get Me” video while living there. HIM’s Ville Valo and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis have both recorded vocals while staying as guests. Meanwhile, former Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante recorded his infamous strung-out documentary interview at the Chateau Marmont.
The Hollywood Walk Of Fame is a popular tourist attraction, featuring many decades of entertainers’ handprints along what is essentially the Times Square of Los Angeles. But that same Walk Of Fame is generally lacking when it comes to rock and metal icons, even if it does have over 2,600 stars featured.
Fortunately, there is the RockWalk on Sunset Boulevard to counter this, as launched in 1985 outside of the Guitar Center superstore on Sunset between Vista and Gardner. Members of Def Leppard, AC/DC, Motörhead, Aerosmith, KISS, Van Halen, Black Sabbath and The Scorpions are among those featured within the RockWalk. The display with Iron Maiden’s handprints also include a skeletal handprint belonging to band mascot Eddie. Plenty of metal’s forefathers – like Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Les Paul and Jimi Hendrix – are also honored within the RockWalk.
A Jewish-style deli with East Coast roots going back to the 1920s, Canter’s Deli is open 24 hours daily aside from the Jewish High Holidays. Canter’s has a bar called the Kibbitz Room, which was the launching pad for the careers of The Wallflowers and Fiona Apple. The Kibbitz Room has also featured appearances by Jackson Browne, Melissa Etheridge and The Everly Brothers’ Phil Everly at various times. The deli has also been seen on classic shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Mad Men.
But on the metal end of things, restaurant owner Marc Canter grew up with Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. Canter published a book about GNR a little over a decade ago, which diners can purchase at the counter; the book goes into depth about how the deli regularly fed the band in its early days. Furthermore, the first GNR publicity photo was taken in a Canter’s booth.
4544 Franklin Avenue
Without the musical genius of Glenn Danzig, it is unclear what would have become of the heavy metal genre. Among the artists who have recorded songs written by Danzig over the years are Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Alkaline Trio, AFI, Jawbreaker, Volbeat, Entombed, Trivium, Cradle Of Filth, and Refused.
However, the darkness of one Glenn Danzig cannot be doubted. As proof, check out 4544 Franklin Avenue in the Los Feliz neighborhood. Whether or not Danzig still lives there is questionable, but a visit to the area will surely make for a great story.