As a Southern California kid, I have always so appreciated her beaches, weather and wine. And just over the past few weeks it has occurred to me just how fortunate we are to have amazing—and now historic—music venues always at the ready. A few are gone, but most keep rockin’.
Outdoor trophies like the Greek Theatre and the Hollywood Bowl helped create a lifetime of memories for the hooligans I call friends. We used to go to the Universal Amphitheatre before it had a roof. When they put a ceiling on it, I managed a mega pop star who sold out seven nights. Now both the venue and act are gone. As a twink, I went to the Music Center to see the Academy Awards, Angela Landsbury in Mame and Robert Preston in The Music Man. There was the Rose Palace in Pasadena, the Santa Monica Civic, The Hollywood Palladium and of course the magnificent Pantages.
But for me it was the rock venues that altered my take on things. I sat mesmerized six nights in a row for Led Zeppelin at The Forum. Five nights for Jethro Tull. I saw The Jackson 5, Elvis and Barbra there. I met The Bee Gees backstage and went on to work for them. A couple weeks ago I saw The Eagles at the newly renovated Forum and it was strikingly remarkable—best acoustics I have ever enjoyed in an arena.
Just last week I hit Doug Weston’s Troubadour on Santa Monica Boulevard for a friend’s benefit. I loved the Troubadour growing up—James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison. It was the place Robert Hilburn from the LA Times discovered Elton John and introduced him to America. The late Doug Weston was a 6’ 6” wild-eyed, eccentric gay gent with long, stringy hair—and, truth be told—he was a bit of a perv yet way sweet. Doug was without a doubt the father of SoCal’s singer-songwriter movement.
Up on the Sunset Strip in 1964, Elmer Valentine and a few others opened the Whisky A Go Go. With its house band, The Doors, and the hot dancers in cages, it soon became the hottest club on the planet, drawing the biggest names. The joint is still going strong. It was a real blast for me a few years ago to produce a radio show outta there called Live from the Whisky. Stevie Nicks, ELO, Crosby Stills & Nash and others dropped by to perform live via satellite across America thanks to the Whisky’s legendary standing in rock ‘n’ roll.
In 1973, Valentine along with Lou Adler and three of the greatest managers in rock n’ roll history—Elliot Roberts, Peter Asher and my pal David Geffen—took over an old strip joint called Largo and opened The Roxy. Adler had produced The Monterey Pop Festival along with my surfer friend and Doris Day’s kid, Terry Melcher. Adler also produced a little album called Tapestry by Carole King. He was just inducted into the 2013 class of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. His son Nic runs The Roxy today.
I was at The Roxy on opening night when Adler introduced a new play he had brought over from England. It starred the play’s writer, Richard O’Brien, Tim Curry and Meat Loaf, and The Rocky Horror Show briefly turned The Roxy into a legit show house. Paramount saw it and the movie deal was made. The rest really is entertainment history. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the longest-running continuous release in film history. It all started on The Strip.
All of these halls have great and powerful stories to tell. There is historical significance to our local joints. It’s imperative to remember what a place they’ve all had in history, how long they’ve been here for Southern Californians to enjoy and how many are still delivering a little music magic every single night. Rock on!