Los Angeles Nightlife: The Best Music Bars in Hollywood
Many an album launch party has been held in the countless music venues and glamourous hotels in West Hollywood. As famous for tragedy as celebration, the clubs that pepper the streets have entertained some of the most talented - and tortured - entertainers that ever lived.
As we continue to focus on Los Angeles, we look at the bars and clubs in West Hollywood known both for their notoriety, and for launching the careers of many artists over the decades.
Follow Santa Monica Boulevard west, towards Beverly Hills and you will come across what is probably the most well-known music venue in Los Angeles: The Troubadour. Just as famous for kick-starting the careers of great comedians as it is for emerging musicians, the Troubador boasts a unique exterior, styled to look like an American imagining of an English tavern. It has been a point of discovery for some of the biggest artists from either side of the pond and is known for launching the careers of influential artists from the 60s and 70s. Most notably The Byrds, The Eagles, Love and Van Morrison.
Stories about the Troubador are legendary; from Elton John’s first U.S. gig being held here (he was introduced by a little-known singer-songwriter called Neil Diamond), to Tom Waits being discovered, Pearl Jam’s first performance, No Doubt debuting their first album, and Radiohead’s first US live show for OK Computer. The club allegedly doesn’t record misdemeanours to keep well-known patrons happy, however it is said that John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were reportedly thrown out for heckling comedy duo, the Smothers Brothers.
Whisky A Go Go
Affectionately known as “The Whisky”, this nightclub opened in the early 1960s and takes its name from the popularised Parisian Go-Go dancing discotheque. Situated on Sunset Boulevard, the club has one of the most enviable positions in West Hollywood, looking out over the city from its perch on the hill. The 500-capactiy venue was one of the first of its kind to open its doors on Sunset Boulevard. With a dingy interior and black and red exterior there are hints at the sinful goings-on inside - the reputation of “The Whisky” certainly precedes it…
There’s little doubt why this club was the first ever live music venue to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Doors were the first house band and it was the regular drinking (and playing) spot of Janis Joplin, Guns N Roses and Mötley Crew.
There are stories of famous rockstars ‘hooking-up’, getting ill backstage, and even brawling, but one of the most famous incidents at the establishment must have been the fateful first stateside gig of UK supergroup, Oasis. The concert in 1994 was tipped to be their night to break the American market and was the start of a year-long tour. However (allegedly due to certain chemical elements) they spent the first 20 minutes playing different songs at the same time. Noel quit the band the next day.
Rainbow Bar and Grill
A little further down the Sunset Strip, next to the Roxy Theatre (another excellent live music venue), you will find the Rainbow Bar and Grill.
Famous for its rock and roll patrons, the partial mock-Tudor building hosts regulars Alice Cooper and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. There are even rumours that the imitable Lemmy, frontman of Motorhead, propped up the bar most days when not on tour.
Before it was named the Rainbow Bar and Grill (opened in spectacular fashion with a party for Elton John), it was known as the Villa Nova restaurant, famous for hosting Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio’s blind date.
In celebration of West Hollywood’s illustrious past, we have compiled a playlist of the great and good who rocked (and continue to rock) the stages on Sunset, Santa Monica and Melrose.
Check out our LA rock bar playlist: