Tales of Rock – How Sunset Strip Shaped Glam Rock and the 1980’s

The west coast of America has been a hotbed of hard rock talent over the years – many of whom were hellbent on self-destruction. Classic Rock takes a walk on the wild side with Van Halen, Poison, Mötley Crüe, and more.

Loosely translated, Los Angeles means the City Of Angels. But it’s been called many things in its time: a city of dreams; a city of destruction; Guns N’ Roses even famously immortalized it as Paradise City. And all these descriptions are entirely apt to one degree or another.

Over the years Los Angeles has seen its fair share of both angels and devils, and many of them with a shared passion for rock’n’roll. It’s a city without a center, a fragmented place held together by freeways and thruways, full of misfits and larger-than-life characters.

It’s the way it’s always been. And probably the way it always will be.

From the early 50s scene of surf bands that eventually morphed into the heady music that The Doors’ Jim Morrison turned into an art form in the 60s, LA’s Sunset Boulevard has always appeared on the radar as the ultimate place for misbehaving rock stars to congregate.

Fondly (or sometimes not so fondly) referred to as Sunset Strip, it’s the mile and a half of avenue that links Hollywood with the moneyed, upmarket neighborhood of Beverly Hills. If you’re looking for a definition, the Strip’s unofficial boundaries run to Crescent Heights Boulevard (to the east) and Doheny Drive (to the west). But what’s so special about this little corner of Paradise City?

Well, this section of wide-avenued west coast America houses a huge percentage of the famous rock clubs you’ve ever heard or read about in rock folklore: The Whisky A Go-Go, The Cathouse, The Roxy… It’s also the home of Sunset Strip Tattoo, the place where any self-respecting established (or wannabe) rocker goes to get some serious ink into their skin. They’ve all gone under the needle there, from Mötley Cruë to Guns N’ Roses to Billy Idol to nouveau wannabe bad boy Robbie Williams.

Blink and you miss it, but you’ll find it nestling among hotels across the road from the famous Hyatt House Hotel – the place nicknamed The Riot House in the 70s for all the right reasons. The Hyatt House was the place where all the rock stars would gather when they passed through town – everyone from Led Zeppelin to The Who.

Televisions got thrown through its windows; motorcycles were be ridden indoors; inappropriate acts took place around the pool. Little Richard lived there full-time. Blasting out and causing all sorts of chaos in the late 70s, Van Halen was the ultimate home-town heroes, arguably the first in a rash of party-hard rockin’ rollers that spawned the LA scene of the 80s. Four guys who lived life to the max.

 

Although Van Halen frontman, David Lee Roth was a transplanted New Yorker, he soon morphed into the ultimate California boy – the male equivalent of the good-time party girls he sang about with such enthusiasm in the Beach Boys song he co-opted in later years, California Girls.

Arriving in Los Angeles in the mid-70s, ostensibly to go to college, Roth soon hooked up with brothers Alex and Edward Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony. And upon the release of their debut record in 1978, things kicked off. And Los Angeles was always the starting point.

“It’s like, anything you desire you can find here – whatever your vice, whatever your sexual ideals. Whatever somebody else can’t do in his nine-to-five job, I can do in rock’n’roll,” a delighted David Lee Roth told Rolling Stone years ago. “I guess what I’m saying, man, is that I’m proud of the way we live. Not so much because of the records we sell or the money we make, but because of the party we’re going to have afterward to celebrate all that.”

Parties were on everyone’s agenda back then. It was all down to who could throw the wildest, most out-of-control bash. This was long before rock musicians got wise and healthy and had nothing stronger than mineral water and fresh fruit on their backstage tour rider. And Van Halen’s parties were known to be among the best in the business.

To that end, David Lee Roth was the first rock star to enlist the help of a full-time ‘Entertainment Officer’ while his band was out on the road. The parties were huge, with no shortage of beer, Jack Daniel’s, and girls. And for Roth girls were the most important ingredient.

“Most of what I do is because of girls. If girls didn’t exist I wouldn’t have this job, I wouldn’t bother with music. I wouldn’t even bother with breakfast,” Dave told Classic Rock. “My fantasies were always the girl next door. We started to see evidence of the professional groupie in the early eighties and, alarmingly, these girls bore a striking resemblance to Mötley Crüe. For me, the best groupies were the homecoming queens who were out on a lark; the preacher’s daughters out for a wild night.”

The wild nights were coming thick and fast. Roth and the rest would have their fill of girls, drink, and dope, and go on to play another day.

While the main ingredients of Van Halen’s parties of the late 70s and early 80 consisted of mostly booze and girls, other musicians were arriving in Los Angeles hell-bent on a far more destructive journey.

Steven Adler had lived in Los Angeles since he was 12 years old. By the early 80s he was still at school, but realizing that his ambitions were leaning towards music. Adler was a drummer, and one of his friends at school was a misfit kid, born in England. His name was Saul Hudson. Today we know him as Slash.

“We’d dip school nearly every day,” Adler told Classic Rock’s Mick Wall. “Me and Slash would walk up and down Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards, and each day we had this thing where we’d take a different type of alcohol and we’d walk up and down, up and down, and what we’d be talking about was how we’d be living when we were rock stars.

“It was like this dream that I always knew would come true. We’d go out and meet older women, who would take us back to their Beverly Hill’s homes. They’d give us booze, coke, they’d feed us, really.”

Slash and Adler lived the street urchin life until they got it together enough to team up with some friends to form a band. They hooked up with a band called Hollywood Rose, which had a frontman called Axl. The rest, as they say…

Another band that seemed to personify the hedonistic glamour of 80s Los Angeles was Poison. Four larger-than-life characters who were transplanted from the east coast – all big hair, Day-Glo clothing, and big songs about girls, sunshine, and parties.

“We didn’t want to be anything other than ourselves. We wanted it all – the cars, the girls, the fame, the money… Music had kind of sucked. It had no energy. But we were young and we were into the whole rock star ideal, and that’s what we pursued,” frontman Bret Michaels recalled in 2001.

“And in LA, the girls are amazing looking, you know,” Michaels continued. “If you were from Pennsylvania, it was just amazing! It was hot, and there were all these guys trying to get their thing going too. I mean, we’d have our flyers and we’d be handing them out on the street, and Axl Rose would be there too, and he’d be like, ‘Hey come and check us out, we’re called Hollywood Rose…’ It was just a great time, really.”

It seemed that all the bands plying their trade on Sunset Strip were somehow inextricably linked; it’s possible to play a twisted version of Six Degrees Of Separation – the parlor game that seeks to prove that any two people can be linked through various means, however nebulous – with any recognizable LA band.

But for the LA set, the links are solid. Just consider a few of them: GN’R’s Slash nearly ended up in Poison; Tracii Guns of LA Guns played with Axl, and gave his surname to Axl’s new band when Hollywood Rose imploded; Mötley Crüe and GN’R are linked thanks to a feud; Nikki Sixx played with Tracii Guns in Brides Of Destruction.

The link between Mötley Crüe and Ratt is stained with blood and steeped in tragedy. Both bands began their rise to the top at around the same time. Both bands had nailed the Hollywood bad-boy image – all tattoos, ripped jeans, preposterously big hair, and a snarling air of danger that seemed to precede everywhere they ended up. Crüe bassist, godfather, and spiritual leader Nikki Sixx seems to embody the idea of the quintessential LA rocker.

Tattooed, street-smart, and effortlessly exuding cool. Nonetheless, he is not without his battle scars – after all, on one fateful night in 1987 in LA (where else?) Nikki died. Upon returning from a fraught tour of Japan with the Crüe, Nikki chose to stop by his heroin dealer (the same guy who also dealt to Robbin Crosby of Ratt); having narrowly avoided being thrown into a Japanese jail following a bottle-throwing incident that took place on Japan’s world-famous Bullet Train, he needed to cut loose.

But what happened to Nikki on that dealer-visiting night isn’t exactly what he had in mind. Getting high is one thing, killing yourself is another, as Nikki recalls in the band’s infamous autobiography The Dirt.

Nikki: “He rolled up my sleeve, tied off my arm, and plunged the Persian into my veins. The heroin raced to my heart exploded all over my body, and in an instant I was blue. I lost consciousness. When I opened my eyes everything was a blur of light, color, and motion. I was on my back, moving through some kind of corridor. Sounds wooshed in and out my ears, unrecognizable at first until a voice slowly emerged out of the white noise: ‘We’re losing him, we’re losing him,’ it said.

“Above me, everything was bright white. I looked down and realized that I had left my body. Nikki Sixx – or the filthy, tattooed container that had once held him – was lying covered face-to-toe with a sheet on a gurney being pushed by medics into an ambulance.”

Nikki ‘died’ for two minutes but remarkably lived to tell the tale.

It wasn’t just the drink and the hard drugs that Mötley Crüe enjoyed. Unsurprisingly, girls played a big part in their formative years (and also much later); their documented on-the-road groupie shenanigans are nothing short of outrageous.

Nowadays they might all be married/attached and ‘responsible’, but for a long time, it was almost the polar opposite of that. For their huge MTV hit Girls Girls Girls, the Crüe employed some of the Strip’s finest, er, strippers to add a certain je ne sais quoi to the video that was shot to accompany the track.

“We’ve always liked underdogs, as human beings. Strippers are some of the hugest underdogs in the country,” Sixx explains – as if any explanation is necessary. “They have beautiful bodies, they’re a guilty pleasure. Husbands say to their wives: ‘I would never go…’ But the stripper business is worth billions per year. We always loved them.

“It was the ultimate place to go and hang out with beautiful women, drink and do drugs. That was the perfect evening. We’d start off at Tommy’s place, have a couple of shots of Jack, and off we’d go. It was sort of a free time.

“And the video represents that sense of freedom and youthfulness. The great thing is, that song will always be played as long as there are strip joints, man.”

With all the bands that were hanging out in the small clubs that littered Sunset Strip, there were always petty rivalries and worse ready to rear their ugly heads, and they often did.

The most infamous of all is the spat that developed between Guns N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe. It’s a case that still hasn’t been resolved to any great degree today. And yes, it involved a girl. Vince’s wife, in fact.

The story goes that Crüe singer Vince Neil’s wife Sharise had been hanging out in a club, and GN’R guitarist Izzy Stradlin started hitting on her. Things escalated and ended with Neil punching out Stradlin backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards. That’s how the feud began.

Subsequently, a vicious war of words between the two factions raged in the pages of rock magazines, culminating in an invitation from Axl to Vince to meet for a fistfight in the parking lot of Tower Records on Sunset. The showdown never happened. But, according to Neil, the offer is still on the table.

“After Axl chickened out a half-dozen times,” Vince stated, “I went on MTV with a message for him. I said that if Axl wanted to fight me then he should do it in front of the whole world. We’d go three rounds, and then the world would see who the pussy was. But I never heard from Axl. Not that day, not that month, not that year, not that century.”

Bitter feuds were not limited to inter-band rivalry, either. Fights were beginning to break out within bands, usually triggered an excess of one substance or another.

Before their 1999 re-formation, Poison was well on their way to self-destruction, as Bret Michaels confessed to Classic Rock. “CC [DeVille, guitarist] was getting fucked-up and I was drinking,” he said. “He’s high, but I’m drunk. We were having rows, he slammed me, I slammed him. I ended up in a fistfight with my best friend – this was my best friend. We kept having really stupid arguments – stuff like his guitar was too loud for me to hear myself sing.”

While Poison has managed to iron out their internal difficulties, the camaraderie that might have existed in the past between fellow Los Angeles bands is not present anymore, as a posting by Nikki Sixx on the Brides Of Destruction website made clear when it was hypothesized that Brides would join a Kiss tour that Poison was currently on.

“No way in fucking hell would we [Brides Of Destruction or Mötley Crüe] ever, ever tour with a fucking band like Poison.” Sixx wrote. “We have had talks with Kiss and I told them very clearly that we would not do the tour if they used Poison. That would be the death of us. I will not be attached to that kind of fake bullshit.”

Of all the LA bands that have suffered, though, Ratt really picked up the bum hand when life’s cards were dealt. For much of this century, two versions of the band have existed, playing the retro circuit of America, but the excesses of the 80s have taken their toll. The various factions have been in and out of court, and in 2002 guitarist Robbin Crosby succumbed to Aids.

But now, twenty years into a supposedly sanitized new millennium, it’s come full-circle, with Guns N’ Roses returning to the stage and Motley Crue booking a huge reunion tour in the wake of the success of the movie version of The Dirt. Hell, GN’R might even release a new album.

Only in Hollywood, eh?

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Who Do I Look Like?

We just finished a gig at The Troubadour. I put my guitar in it’s case and locked it in the back room behind the stage. The band sort of spread out through the club as if they needed to go network, but we were all there for the obvious. Sex, drugs, booze and Rock and … Continue reading “California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Who Do I Look Like?”

We just finished a gig at The Troubadour. I put my guitar in it’s case and locked it in the back room behind the stage. The band sort of spread out through the club as if they needed to go network, but we were all there for the obvious. Sex, drugs, booze and Rock and Roll.

I run into this gorgeous blonde. Like a baby Farrah Fawcett.

“I like that song you played about the bombshell. Who’s that about?”

“Farrah. I wrote it when I was sixteen. I love Farrah.”

The earliest warning sign should have been her next opening line. Jabbing me with her finger, she pointed at her own face and said: “Who do I look like?” I had no idea. The answer she was looking for apparently, was Heather Locklear.

A few hours later and we’re walking back to her place. It’s beginning to spit with rain.

Things started fine. Pretty much like most tipsy post show hook ups back then. As things began to escalate, she made an excuse to go to the bathroom. It took a few minutes to decide on the appropriate level of nakedness to be in on her return but after 10 minutes I thought I should probably check if she’s Okay.

When I got to the bathroom, the door was locked. The light, on. I knocked: no answer. I returned to the bedroom, put some clothes back on. Looked out the window. The rain was now torrential. Home was 20 minutes away. Do I call a taxi? Faced with an impossible situation, I took an incredibly ungentlemanly decision.

“Hope you’re okay. Unlock the door and I’ll get you some water.” I wrote it on a piece of paper found on the girl’s desk, slipped it under the bathroom door and waited a few minutes. When the door stayed locked, I went to her room, got into bed and fell asleep.

A few hours later I’m awakened by the door opening. It’s her. I make a move to get up but she pins me down with a surprising level of strength, strips completely and the most excruciating 20 minutes of my life began. To this day I’ve never met anyone else who has a “don’t touch me with your hands or mouth below my waist” policy. It was bizarre and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It was just a bronco cowgirl ride to the finish.

When it was over, I got up to leave but she grabbed my arm and said no. She pulled me back into bed, only to roll over and go back to sleep within minutes. Awkwardly, I lay there a bit longer, trying to figure out whether it was worth staying. Eventually I tried to leave again. This time she said no but I ignored her. Besides, it had stopped raining now.

As an act of goodwill I wrote my phone number on a pad on her desk. She asked what I was doing and then laughed when I told her.

Two weeks later, my band is back at the Troubadour. I’m out back having a smoke out back chatting to some friends when over my shoulder I hear it again.

“Who do I look like?”

Poor guy.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Buy Phicklephilly THE BOOK now available on Amazon!

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly

California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Crazy Eyes

Here we were living in Santa Monica, and living the dream. Just a bunch of poor musicians having the time of our lives.

I was at a party at a friend’s place. One of his friends had been flirting with me all night, but it wasn’t normal flirting — she wouldn’t say a word to me. She’d only touch me and giggle as I walked by. Towards the end of the party, she took my hand and quietly led me to her room, which has a bed and just a bunch of clothes everywhere. Less than sixty seconds into making out, she started to go down on me. Which I accepted. I realized how creepy and weird the situation had been to that point, but it was head. What nineteen year-old dude turns down oral?

She finished up, and put her head on my chest to rest. At that point, I was thinking this girl was loony tunes, but I didn’t want to be an ass, so I began to reciprocate. But she grabbed my hand and stopped me, and said, “Sorry, I have a boyfriend and I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that.” I looked at her totally dumbstruck. She must have misinterpreted my dropped jaw to mean that I was hurt, because she immediately came back with, “But it was really nice sucking your cock.” These were the first words she’d said to me all night.

So we were both quite high, we decided to head back to my place. Everything seemed normal. She finally decides to get it on with me. Sex was good and then we got to talking. Since we’re both high, we started talking about death and what happens to your body after you die and she asks me whether I have ever thought about killing anyone. I could sense a creepy story coming my way and just shook my head.

She then proceeded to narrate how she has always thought about killing someone by suffocating them, with a pillow. And since we were on the bed, there were 2 pillows around us and of course, I was majorly creeped out. She was looking at me with the crazy eyes and I was so confident that I wouldn’t see the sun rise the next day. I turned around and pretended to sleep. After a couple of hours, she left without saying a thing.”

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Instagram: @phicklephilly     Facebook: phicklephilly   Twitter: @phicklephilly

California Dreamin’ -1982 to 1984 – Dariella – Into Darkness

Let me preface this by saying that I’m no prince charming, but even I have limits. I met Dariella one night after a show at Madam Wong’s West in Santa Monica, and she seemed interesting and metal. Naturally I wanted to see her again.

The First Date:

I found out she doesn’t drive, which isn’t a problem. I also found out that she lived down in Long Beach, not great, but I wanted to spend time with her so I took the drive to pick her up. When I arrived I also found out she lived with her parents, and was unemployed, again, see seemed great so I decided it wasn’t a big deal. We went to one of the local haunts to get some food and get to know one another better. That’s when I found out she was a part time Dom in a local dungeon. Okay to each their own, people have different tastes. Everything else during the date went smoothly. She was hot and exotic. The night ended and I drove her home.

The Second Date:

She wanted to go to this great bar that she knew about. I was all for it, something new. It turned out to be a really seedy dive bar. It was like something out of a movie. Everybody knew her, and she even had some family there. She proceeded to get wasted while I took in the sights and got to know the people. There was an old Hell’s Angel that told me about his youth, and how he was the king of the skating rink back in the day. I got to see a midget line dance to Copper Head Road. My date ran into a friend she’d met in county lockup. (Nice) All in all, it wasn’t too bad. I really enjoyed the place more than spending time with her though. She ran up a HUGE bar tab while we were there and expected me to pay which wasn’t really cool.

The Third Date:

Back to the bar! This time I brought the guys from the band and a few of my friends along. Everyone loved the place. Crazy group of people that looked like, rockers, punks, goths, hookers, bikers, and hippies. It was nuts. But things took an odd turn on the way to the van to drop off my date and her cousin. Her cousin stops and makes a comment about having just about the right amount of people for an orgy. My date replied that it wouldn’t be the first time. What did her cousin think she did at all those parties she went to? The level of crazy just went way up. Her cousin was smokin’ hot too, so we went back in the bar and put it to the group. Everybody was down, so off we went back to somebody’s house.

Sadly, phicklephilly is a dating blog, not a sex blog so I can’t go into all of the details of the orgy back at her cousin’s house. But it was insane and my first one!

Here’s and excerpt of a conversation I later had with my buddy, bassist, Frank.

Me: “That shit was crazy, right?”

Frank: “Fuck sake, mate. Remember the one I was with?”

Me: “Dariella’s hot cousin or that chick with that Bow Wow Wow Mohawk?”

Frank: “Mohawk.”

Me: “Okay.”

Frank: “After I gave it to her she said she’d been smoking meth with her boyfriend earlier that day.”

Me: “That’s fucked up.”

Frank: “And she said how she hoped she wasn’t pregnant!”

Me: “By you or her boyfriend?”

Frank: Fuck sake, I wore a sweater with her, thank fuck!” (condom) But that’s not the worst part.”

Me: “What?”

Frank: “She stole like $80 out of my wallet!”

Me: “I told you that chick was a hooker!”

 

Sadly, that was the last time I went out with Dariella. I think the band was all to weirded out by what had happened.

I miss that bar though.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Instagram: @phicklephilly         Twitter: @phicklephilly          Facebook: phicklephilly

California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Attempted Kidnapping

“One night me and the guys in the band were out at a party at a friend’s place in Venice. It was right after I’d had a fight with my then-girlfriend Clio and I was drinking kind of heavily (I’ve always been able to hold my own, but I was drinking a lot and fast).

This one girl was constantly around me all night and I was warned by a couple people that she was going to hit on me. Whatever, I can deal with it. She was flirting with me a little bit and I made sure to add in my girlfriend to the conversation topic so there was no misunderstanding. Didn’t matter. Every time I went to talk to someone else I would feel a small butt grab, and when I looked around she was backing up giggling. Once it started getting not-so-lightly I straight up told her to stop, I had a girlfriend. (See? even back then I was loyal!)

Anyway, later in the night when I was significantly drunk I was sitting down on a chair while most people were off in another room doing something else. Well she comes in and I guess decides this is the perfect chance. She sits on my lap and starts trying to kiss me and every time I move away she bites my neck. She starts to grab at my crotch too, and even after I hit her hand away it goes right back (remember I’m significantly drunk so not all my coordination is all there).

The last thing I remember is trying to get up to get her off my lap and then I wake up the next morning in a friend of mine’s room on the floor (one of the hosts). I walk out and ask her what happened and she told me the girl was trying to walk me out of the door, telling the others she was just taking me back to ‘take care of me’ at her apartment. My friend said no dice and locked me in her room (while checking on me relatively often) so that the girl couldn’t sneak in and try anything. The girl apparently got very upset when this happened and stormed out.

It’s always nice when your friends have got your back.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish everyday.

Instagram: @phicklephilly      Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly