My musical heritage is very different to my husband’s. He grew up in the days of Motley Crue, Skid Row and Bon Jovi – where the songs were big and the hair even bigger. These bands cut their teeth in the bars of West Hollywood, playing early gigs and drinking until they were carried out.
We first went to LA for a whistle stop 3 days as part of a bigger West Coast trip. I didn’t understand the appeal, as I didn’t have the history that he had. But seeing his face as he walked into The Rainbow was a picture, and one I was happy to be part of.
We’ve been 3 more times since then. Apart from Birmingham, LA is the place in the world I’ve spent most time. The second and third time my love grew. I was more into rock music by then, and loved the history of the venues, even though I wasn’t around for the music at the time.
Seeing live bands play stages that had been graced by The Doors with Jim Morrison in the 60s. Sitting in the booth in The Rainbow which features in the November Rain video. Watching Motley Crue play on Sunset Boulevard when they closed the road for the festival – with the full roller coaster drum kit set up. All very special times. Chilling by the hotel pool in the day.
Seeing Lionel Richie in the hotel foyer and overlooking the exclusive Virgin Atlantic party from our bedroom. Watching Vince Neill of Motley Crue getting progressively more drunk on champagne in the hotel bar. Even seeing The Saturdays being interviewed by the pool. I’m not into celebrity, but there’s still something exciting about seeing these people sharing your airspace.
By the fourth time it was clear that things were starting to decline.
The rock scene is disappearing. There’s a big rise in R&B and hip hop acts playing WeHo venues. And that brings a different type of crowd – one who perhaps is less tolerant of the rockers with their long hair and tight trousers. Venues have closed. Not just the House of Blues – that’s just the latest one. The Roxy, Red Rock Bar and Cat Club all closed within about a year of each other. Cat Club became an Irish bar. That goes way against the history of the Strip.
Boutiques and restaurants and plazas are popping up.
There’s a lot of money in the area; Ferraris and Lamborghinis are common place out side restaurants. And because the Strip is such a small part of WeHo, and indeed WeHo itself isn’t that big, space is at a prime. Developers see big opportunities for big bucks. Rock tourism (and rock locals) aren’t the big bucks spenders. Which is why places like the House of Blues are being torn down and replaced with condos and hotels.
Sunset Strip Music Festival – which started off honouring rockers such as Ozzy Osbourne and Motley Crue – now hosts electronic dance DJs.
The only places that left on the Strip now are the Roxy, the Whisky, the Viper Room and the Rainbow. Sure there are a few other bars in the area as well, but in a town that used to be renowned for partying, most venues are fairly quiet in the week. I think, as much as it pains me to say it, it’s only a matter of time before the remaining places start to close too.
It’s a long way to go and a lot of money to spend to get a watered down version of what it once was – especially when you’ve done all the tourist places and seen the other parts of LA you want to see.
Time for a new music mecca!
We’re already looking towards “Music City”.
Nashville, Tennessee – yee-hah!