The majority of those crazy Sunset Strip stories you hear about motorcycles in hotel lobbies, flying televisions and the Hollywood Vampires took place in West Hollywood. Back then, it was a seemingly “anything goes” unincorporated section of Los Angeles County. Since 1984, West Hollywood has been a separate city. And if you’re looking for music history, there’s no other place quite like it in Southern California.
Up-and-coming acts still play legendary venues like The Roxy, Viper Room and Whisky a Go Go. There’s even a walking tour dedicated to the hidden history and overall debauchery of the pre-grunge Sunset Strip.
For this piece, we’re giving you a list of hotels, bookstores and concert venues that you can still visit. And, besides decades of music history, they all have one thing in common: to this day, you never know who you might run into at any one of these legendary West Hollywood landmarks for punk, hard rock and metal fans.
Andaz West Hollywood (the former and current Riot House)
The former Continental Hyatt House at the corner of Sunset and Kings has changed names a couple of times since Keith Richards dropped a TV out of room 1015. Nowadays, it’s the Hyatt concept hotel, Andaz.
While you’ll no longer have to dodge flying TVs as you stroll down Sunset, the current managers are not above capitalizing on the property’s notoriety. The hotel’s Riot House Bar & Restaurant faces Sunset Boulevard and serves breakfast and dinner. Their breakfast menu includes quotes from former frequent guests Little Richard and Robert Plant. The latter’s quote is conveniently placed above the libations section.
Its slogan is “Bookseller to the Great and Infamous.” If you own 20 rock star bios, chances are Book Soup hosted book signings for half of them. This is the largest independent bookstore in West Hollywood. Every week, there’s at least one book signing or reading.
Recent metal icons have included Rob Halford and Anthrax bassist Frank Bello. In addition to having one of the most impressive collections of classic album-focused 33 1/3 books, they also sell vinyl.
Le Parc Suite
Le Parc Suite is where Ozzy Osbourne holed up for months after being fired from Black Sabbath. The year was 1979, and the future reality TV star thought his life was over. So he checked in at a hotel that a broke, fading rock star with a yearly drug habit in excess of his average fan’s annual income could ill afford.
Instead of enjoying this retreat-like hotel at the corner of Sherwood and Knoll, the Ozzman rarely left his one-bedroom suite. He claims that he only opened the door for pizza delivery and his dealer.
Mystery Pier Books
While neighboring Book Soup appeals to bibliophiles in general, Mystery Pier Books is compact and exclusive. Many of their first-edition books predate the United States itself. Celebrity patrons include Elvis Costello and Jimmy Page. The latter is a well-known collector of Aleister Crowley memorabilia. The Led Zeppelin guitarist who was partially responsible for the unofficial name change of the nearby Hyatt House has bought multiple first-edition Crowley works from LA County’s most spellbinding indie book store.
The Rainbow Bar & Grill
If you’re only going to visit one Sunset Strip bar, make it the Rainbow. Many of the rock legends whose pictures line the main dining room walls still come here. The Lemmy statue is next to the outdoor bar, also known as Lemmy’s Lounge.
To this day, it’s not unusual to see a table or two roped off for the same people who made the Sunset Strip the musical equivalent to the far less exciting Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Since 1973, several stadium-level acts played this 500-capacity venue on their way up. Acts from Social Distortion to Guns N’ Roses recorded early live albums here. The Ramones played their first California show at The Roxy. It’s also where the concert footage from “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” was filmed.
The neighboring Rainbow Bar & Grill has the legendary Lair of the Hollywood Vampires, while the Roxy has the upstairs bar, On the Rox. While it’s somewhat hidden and very exclusive, there are times when fans and other tourists are allowed up for a drink or two. Just don’t make the tourist part too obvious.
The main difference between the Sunset Marquis and the other hotels in this list is that people like Bruce Springsteen and Debbie Harry still stay here when they’re in town. There’s even a recording studio beneath the property. There’s also a photography book, which chronicles who has visited over the years.
While we highly recommend a stay here, please be respectful of the guests’ privacy. The recording studio is generally off-limits to guests, and the staff discourages video recording on the property.
This 500-capacity venue started as a place for ’60s folk acts to master their craft. Punk, new wave and metal bands all made the obligatory stop here during the 1980s. Early in the decade, punk acts like Flipper and Bad Religion passed through to promote their early albums.
In 1985, Guns N’ Roses played their first gig here. Thirty-one years later, Slash and Duff rejoined the band they helped start on the Troubadour stage for the first time in more than 20 years. It’s also where the current Stone Temple Pilots lineup played their first show.
The Viper Room
If you think places like the Troubadour, Whisky and Roxy are small, The Viper Room is roughly half their size. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played the inaugural Viper Room show at the request of then-part-owner Johnny Depp. Unfortunately, many remember this relative newcomer to the Sunset Strip for the untimely death of River Phoenix and early solo performances by a strung-out John Frusciante, but legendary acts like Pearl Jam and the Stone Temple Pilots have played here without incident.
The Whisky a Go Go
When it comes to legendary punk, hard rock and metal acts, it’s easier to list who hasn’t played here. The 500-capacity Sunset Strip venue is such an important part of music history that it’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1969, Alice Cooper recorded “Live at the Whisky A Go-Go.” Twenty years later, Soundgarden recorded their “Louder than Live” concert film on the same stage. Metallica discovered bassist Cliff Burton while playing the Whisky with his band Trauma.
Around the corner at 1140 North Clark Street, you can see where the members of Mötley Crüe once shared an apartment. This is where the after-parties were held after some of their early shows on the Sunset Strip. They returned to the Whisky in 1989 to film the video for “Kickstart my Heart.”
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