Walkable West Hollywood: Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour
Take a self-guided walking tour through music history along the Sunset Strip
Walkable West Hollywood: Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour
Distance: 1 Mile/1.6 kilometers
The spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is not only alive in West Hollywood—it thrives. Rock legends old and new bring West Hollywood to life, playing hard at its clubs and sleeping it off in its swanky hotels. The Strip in particular has long been known for badass escapades and incredible live music.
Want to walk in the footsteps of rock stars? Take the one-mile rock‘n’ roll walking tour of The Sunset Strip.
8401 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Nicknamed “The Riot House,” this was the rocker hotel of the 1960s and 70s. Touring rock groups like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Doors all stayed here. Imagine trashed rooms and wild parties on the balconies. Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham is rumored to have ridden his motorcycle through the halls, while frontman Robert Plant once proclaimed himself a “golden God” while standing on a balcony of room 905, from which he could see the billboard for their 1975 album, Physical Graffiti. Keith Richards once dropped a TV off the balcony of room 1015, while Jim Morrison got evicted for precariously hanging out a window by his fingertips. A glass panel in one of the rooms once read, “Come on baby, light my fire. Try to set the night on fire.” – The Doors, 1967.
8433 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Back in the 1940s, nightclub Ciro’s was a celebrity hotspot and the preferred haunt of actor Humphrey Bogart. The 1960s gave way to It’s Boss, a rock venue known for launching rock band The Byrds. Since 1972, however, it’s been The Comedy Store. Comics who have graced its legendary stage include Robin Williams, Andy Kaufman, Whoopie Goldberg, Bill Burr, Dave Chappelle, Marc Maron, Ali Wong, Sarah Silverman, Martin Lawrence and legions more.
8440 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Now a rooftop pool bar, this swanky space was once a celebrity hangout for rock bands like the Smashing Pumpkins, Guns N’ Roses, The Cranberries, The Who and many others.
4. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club
8560 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Today, it’s an office building, but in the mid-1960s, this was a happening scene taking up the first four of 10 floors and attracting customers who lined up around the block nightly. Hef lived on the top floor with a round bed and a moving wall with a fully stocked bar. His business partner, Mario Maglieri, came out from Chicago in 1964 to help launch the club and left soon after to be a partner at Whisky a Go Go down the street.
5. Mel’s Diner
8585 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
You gotta eat at least one meal here. Once known as Ben Frank’s, rockers in the ‘60s and ‘70s would chill here after gigs. It was also headquarters for protesting teens in 1966 during the Sunset Strip curfew riots; mass arrests took place in the adjacent parking lot. Today, this retro diner is a great place to stop for a burger, milkshake, slice of pie or just a coffee. Keen eyes may recognize the restaurant from the 1973 coming-of-age film American Graffiti or the HBO series Entourage.
8760 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
This lime green, spaceship-like building is probably the most unusual on The Strip. It serves as the studios and offices of Mutato Muzika, the music production company founded by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo. They’ve produced soundtracks for hit movies like The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore and Bottle Rocket, as well as TV shows like Rugrats and Clifford the Big Red Dog.
7. Former Tower Records
8801 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Now used for short-term pop-up stores, this is the site of the iconic Tower Records flagship store. Rock groups and performers popped in on the regular for impromptu concerts and autograph sessions. In 1997, Duran Duran staged a reunion concert in the parking lot. Aerosmith autographed albums a few days later. In 1998, Rod Stewart performed here, too.
8852 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Johnny Depp and others opened this famous rock club in 1993. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers headlined the opening party. Actor River Phoenix collapsed in front of the club and later died from a drug overdose early Halloween morning that same year. Today, the venue hosts many famous rock, heavy metal and alternative rock acts.
8901 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
One of the most storied venues in music history, The Whisky is where go-go dancing was born in the mid-1960s and the epicenter of L.A.’s hard-partying rock scene. Between May and August of 1966, The Doors served as The Whisky’s house band – until they were fired when Jim Morrison missed a set due to an acid trip gone wrong. Later in the ‘60 and into the ‘70s and ‘80s, acts ranging from Janis Joplin to Motley Crüe to Guns N’ Roses performed regularly at The Whisky. It remains a popular music club today, and hallowed ground for any rock aficionado.
11. Sunset Office Tower
9000 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Most of L.A.’s influential music and PR firms had offices here in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Jim Morrison balanced on a railing on top of the building while filming a scene for the movie HWY: An American Pastoral. Music industry insiders still favor this iconic venue.
12. The Roxy Theatre
9009 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Bruce Springsteen gave a breakthrough concert at this long-standing venue in 1975. David Bowie, Neil Young and Prince played here, too. Cult musical The Rocky Horror Show made its U.S. debut here in 1974, before being adapted into the film The Rocky Horror Picture Show the following year. Today, The Roxy plays host to a variety of emerging bands and musicians.
9015 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Rainbow was a hangout for countless music icons including John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Micky Dolenz, Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper and even Elvis Presley. A little non-rocker trivia—Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe came here on their first date in the ‘50s, and film director Vincente Minnelli asked Judy Garland to marry him here. Today, guests can enjoy a pizza in the main dining room, an intimate music show in the upstairs venue, or drinks on the outdoor patio.
Note: Thanks to historian Jon Ponder for guidance on this tour!