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Legendary L. A. a Magical History Tour

The Eagles and the True Location of the Hotel California album cover picture

The L.A. Musical History Tour by Art Fein mentions The Beverly Hills Hotel as the one that is pictured on The Eagles “Hotel California” album. It does not look much like it from the street level, but the shot was taken by photographer David Alexander in a fifty-foot fire department cherry picker, so that’s why it is not recognizable in photographs. The interior shot was taken at the Lido Apartments.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono used to stay in bungalows separated from the main body of the hotel for long stretches of time in the seventies, according to Fein.

The other claim to rock fame held by the Beverly Hills Hotel is the Polo Lounge, where famous movie stars and rock groups hang out, and people like to hear their name paged. “He’s probably hanging around the Polo Lounge,” was a quote by a member of Badfinger in regard to their wheeler-dealer crooked manager, Stan Polley, no doubt followed by obscenities.

“In-a Gadda-da-Vida” does not mean Garden of Eden, and where “Blue Jay Way” is located.

Next on the tour is Bido Lito’s Backstage, a popular nightclub in the sixties, located in Hollywood. Iron Butterfly lived upstairs after moving to town from San Diego, and the group Love was based there also. The book says that “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” was not a misinterpretation of “garden of Eden,” but simply a nonsense phrase. Other groups that played there included The Doors, The Seeds, and the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

A photograph of the street sign for Blue Jay Way is included. This road was the inspiration for the Beatles song on Magical Mystery Tour by George Harrison, after publicist Derek Taylor had such a hard time finding the place in a dense fog. Fein says the street is still hard to find because the sign is stolen so often, that’s a surprise.

Who wrote “Born To Be Wild” and where did the phrase “heavy metal” come from?

Another photograph in Fein’s book is the apartment building titled “Mars Bonfire former residence” in Hollywood. Bonfire wrote the song that really defined Steppenwolf, the classic “Born To Be Wild” in this apartment. He had just moved to L.A. from Canada with John Kay and members of Steppenwolf, and Kay asked him to write a song for them. Bonfire was inspired by the latest purchase of a Ford Falcon and a poster in a motorcycle shop, and the song is also legendary because it is the first mention of the phrase “heavy metal,” remembered from a chemistry class Bonfire took. It really took off when it was included in the film “Easy Rider.”

You can see the church Solomon Burke preached at, and Fein says he was the “popularizer” of three Rolling Stones covers “Cry To Me,” “If You Need Me,” and “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.” I wonder who is credited as to writing those songs, as Fein only says Burke made them popular.

Who wrote “You’re Sixteen” covered by Ringo Star, and what is the connection with Elvis?

You can go and see the Burnette Brothers graves in Forest Lawn Cemetery. Johnny and Dorsey were brother from Tennessee, and they both worked in Memphis at the Crown Electric Company, where Elvis worked also part time a little later. They were often call the “battling Burnettes, as they were good boxers. In 1955, they formed a band with another Crown employee called “Rock and Roll Trio, which was signed to Coral Records, and created various rockabilly classics.

They moved to L.A. and met Ricky Nelson, who recorded a couple of their songs, including “Waitin’ In School.” Fein says they hung out with Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochrane in L.A., I think that would have been a really interesting scene to observe, all those rockabilly stars and their motorcycles and classic cars, riding around the town. If one era defined America, this would be it, Elvis, James Dean, leather jackets, greased-back hair, the works.

More musical history footnotes for the Battling Burnettes: Dorsey wrote a hit for Glen Campbell, and later the popular hits “Dreamin,” and then “You’re Sixteen,” which was covered by ex-Beatle Ringo Star in 1974. And Dorsey’s son Billy joined Fleetwood Mac in 1988. Some families are just born to rock and roll.

Frank Zappa’s favorite hangout in the sixties, and also Phil Spector, and the fake London Fog revealed.

Next stop is Canters, called by Frank Zappa as “THE TOP FREAKO WATERING HOLE AND SOCIAL HQ.” It was a Freak sanctuary during the sixties because of the fact it did not discriminate against people with long hair, and record producer Phil Spector and Lenny Bruce used to share a booth here, according to Fein. Spector news flash: he was charged with second-degree murder a few days ago and could get substantial jail time. The producer of the Beatle’s “Let It Be” album has sunk to the bottom. He was always crazy, waving guns around in studios and treating Ronnie Spector as if she were a farm animal.

The Central is pictured, this Sunset Strip nightclub featured many big name acts over the years, Eric Burdon and John Belushi used to sit in. It was made up to be the London Fog for the Oliver Stone movie about The Doors, though the real London Fog was up the street.

Century City is mentioned, due to the fact Tom Petty once visited this neighborhood to see his idol, Roger McGuinn, who lived here at the time. It’s a forest of high-rise buildings, and Petty wrote the lyrics “don’t wanna live in Century City.

Where John Belushi died, Jim Morrison hurt his back, long-time residence of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and site of Zeppelin orgies.

The infamous Chateau Marmont is next, this place has long been a haven for movie and music industry figures, including Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, Gram Parsons, Ringo Star, and the Jefferson Airplane. John Belushi died in one of the rooms here, and Fein says that Jim Morrison visited a “drug-racked” Tim Hardin here. Morrison hurt his back here trying swing into his room from a drainpipe, and John and Yoko used to stay in the bungalows, and Led Zeppelin rented the place for orgies. The photograph shows a tree-shrouded building that reflects the older style structures in L.A.

The Cinnamon Cinder is a large nightclub in Studio City with a storied past. It was run by Bob Eubanks, a famous radio and TV personality who hosted “The Newlywed Game,” and he is the person that introduced the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl. The press conference before the show was held here, that must be where the footage of the Beatle’s interview on my latest DVD acquisition.

Other claims to fame for the Cinnamon Cinder would be when it was called the Psychedelic Mushroom in the seventies, and memorable broadcasts by the Firesign Theatre took place there. In 1990, at the time Fein’s book was published, it was called Sasch, and featured big local acts and national bands like Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo.

Onwards to Ciro’s, which was built in 1939 for as a glamorous nightclub for the rich until it closed in 1957. It opened as the Crazy Horse in the sixties as a twist club, then became Ciro’s, featuring Sonny and Cher, Lovin’ Spoonful, and many other hot acts of the time. The Byrd’s first album cover has a photograph of them onstage there with Bob Dylan. After the Sunset Strip riots in late 1966, it reopened as It’s Boss, and had people like Marvin Gaye and the Fifth Dimension. It then became the “Oldies But Goodies” club in the seventies, before turning into the Comedy Store, which it remains today.

Then Club 88 in West Los Angeles is covered, it was formerly a strip club, but it started having bands like the Go-Go’s, The Bangles, X, and much of the footage of X was filmed here for Penelope Spheeris’s punk documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization.”

Club Lingerie on Sunset Boulevard deserves a prominent mention on various levels. Eddie Cochrane played here in 1959, and other classic performers followed, then it became Red Velvet, and the Kinks, The Turtles, Sonny and Cher all appeared there. The Righteous Brothers, Bobby Fuller Four, and the Knickerbockers (they were the house band and had a hit “Lies”) all were in the lineup. Zappa dismissed the place in his Freak map as the “HQ for the plastic and pompadour set.”

In the seventies, it became Souled Out, and since it was located across the street from Motown’s L.A. office, Tina Turner, Etta James, Kris Kristofferson, Bloodstone, and Stevie Wonder often showed up. In the eighties, The Plasmatics, the Replacements, the Cramps, Joe Turner, Sleep La Beef and others played the venue. It went from rockabilly to soul to pop rock to punk, always about the music.

Eddie Cochran: Larger than life

One of the many famous graves in Forest Lawn, Cochran’s grave is pictured here, he holds a guitar. Fein describes his beginnings as a teenager in L.A. playing country music, until he is signed to Liberty Records and a string of hits were produced like “Summertime Blues” and “C’mon Everybody.” He ended up in “The Girl Can’t Help It” movie because negotiations with Elvis broke down.

Cochran hung out with Ricky Nelson, The Burnette Brothers and Gene Vincent, who all seemed to ride fast motorcycles and have fast cars. But it all ended, as related by Fein, in England. Cochran toured there in the spring of 1960, he was very famous, and one of the first rockers to tour Britain, and Fein said he toured around on his motorcycle from town to town like Caesar in a motorcade flanked by his girlfriend Sharon Steeley. But just as he was heading to the airport with Sharon and Gene Vincent, the taxi they were riding in skidded and crashed, killing him and seriously injuring Sharon and Gene.

Another footnote to rock history: in the English film “Radio On” (1979) Sting plays a gas station attendant near the crash scene who dedicates his life to the memory of Cochran. And Dave Dee (of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mich, and Tich) was one of the first policemen at the crash, they are known for their 1966 hit “Bend It.” I’ve never heard that particular tune, but it’s one of the many details Fein inserts in this book of interest to musicographers.

The Ambassador Hotel : The Cocoanut Grove nightclub

The Ambassador Hotel was the site of the assignation of Robert Kennedy in 1968, probably how most of the world knows the place. It opened in 1921 as one of the classiest hotels in the world, with an elaborate décor and a patio under palms for elegant dining. Movies stars and all sorts of famous people stayed here, and people like Sammy Davis Jr. performed. Later rock acts appeared such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Tina Turner, Etta James, Waylon Jennings, Bonnie Raitt, and the Boomtown Rats.

The Cocoanut Grove changed with the times and definitely earned another niche in rock history by being the location for the highly successful Roy Orbison concert in 1987. This acclaimed concert featured Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, and many others backing Orbison in a tribute filmed in black and white. The music and production is excellent, and this film will be shown for years to come, I saw it the other day on PBS. A classic by any standards, and the rare case where a tribute show works so well

Nat King Cole moves into a nice neighborhood and gets a frosty treatment

Next on the tour is Nat King Cole’s house in tony Hancock Park, which has an interested story. He moved in there in 1947, and the neighborhood was up in arms, but Cole went door to door to reassure the neighbors he was okay. Fein says that one man told him he did not want “undesirables” there, and Cole told him “If I see any, I’ll call you.”

Continental Hyatt House- Legendary party central for Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones and many others.

The management of this multi-story modern hotel had a picture on the wall behind the desk (supposedly, according to Fein), that showed a long-haired musician and the caption “Treat This Man With Respect- He May Have Just Sold A Million Records.” They treated musicians well and welcomed them, and Led Zeppelin would rent as many as six floors here for their parties, bringing in motorcycles in the freight areas and driving them down the hall, while indulging in orgies and massive substance abuse like modern-day Caligulas.

Lemmy of Hawkwind wrote “Motorhead” here, the Rollins Stones movie “Cocksucker Blues” shows Keith Richards and Bobby Keyes throwing a television set out of the window. Jim Morrison of The Doors was evicted after hanging from a ledge by his fingertips, and Little Ritchard lived there though most of the 80’s.

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