Hallowed Ground: The Riot House

“Hallowed Ground” is a regular feature on Clore Chronicles, exploring important physical locations in music history.

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The Sunset Strip in Los Angeles is one of my absolute favorite places to be. There is a constant vibe of rock and roll felt in few other places. It is simply magical.

The location best known as the “Riot House,” currently (officially) referred to as Andaz West Hollywood, is a hotel on the Sunset Strip where some of Rock and Roll’s most “rock and roll” events took place. Quite archetypal stuff: TVs thrown out of windows, people trying to kill themselves, naked women, extensive hedonism, renting entire floors of hotels. You know, normal things.

And we’re talking about some of Rock and Roll’s most iconic and legendary bands, literally the heart of the canon by which all other mainstream Rock and Rollers are judged: Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Doors. (Zeppelin’s John Bonham and The Who’s Keith Moon alone could have warranted the name the “Riot House.”)

Located at 8401 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood and originally opened in 1963, the hotel has had five different names, in order: Gene Autry House (1963-1966), Continental Hyatt House (1966-1976), Hyatt on Sunset (1976-1997), Hyatt West Hollywood (1997-2009) and its current name, Andaz West Hollywood.

From Ralph Hulett and Jerry Prochnicky’s book, Whole Lotta Led: Our Flight with Led Zeppelin:

For the tour’s [Zeppelin’s 1973 tour] final ten days Zeppelin used an entire floor at the Continental Hyatt House in L.A. as its base. Locals began calling it the “Riot House” because of all the zaniness that went on. Only [John Paul] Jones seemed to avoid the tour antics. Reports claim that he always insisted on his hotel suite being at least two floors away from the rest of the band. Having an entire floor was like having one big playground taken from the script of Animal House. It was crazy, it was mad. There were wheelchair races in the hallway. TVs were thrown out the window. Groupies were tied to the beds. “Coke Lady,” an aide employed solely for the purpose of passing out white powder to band members and crew, was kept busy. Bonham played his records very, very loud at three or four in the morning and somebody would go downstairs and complain. The hotel ended up moving the person who complained. It was just the idea that, “We can get away with anything because we’re Led Zeppelin.”

The following 30-second video clip from This Is Spinal Tap was filmed on the roof of the hotel.

In Richard Crouse’s book, Big Bang Baby: The Rock Trivia Book, he shares,

…The hotel has a rich rock and roll history. In the 1960s Doors singer Jim Morrison lived at The Riot House, causing a traffic jam one afternoon when he hung out a window by his fingertips. He wasn’t evicted for his behaviour – he was simply moved to the other side of the hotel to a room facing away from the street. In the 1970s it was Led Zeppelin’s home away from home. Renting as many as six floors at a time, the band would stage motorcycle races in the halls, have orgies, and generally break up the place. Their business was always welcome, as long as they were willing to pay a $50,000 damage deposit each time they stayed there.

For a great look at the “Riot House” from the Zeppelin perspective:

Robert Plant, looking on from a balcony of the “Riot House.” Photo by Peter Simon/Retna.

 

*Originally published July 24, 2010

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A Master Behind the Masterpieces: Eddie Kramer

“A Master Behind the Masterpieces” will be a regular feature on Clore Chronicles, starting with today’s story about Eddie Kramer.

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Without Eddie Kramer, we would all be living in a very different world.

Granted, we would have still had Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Stones, KISS, Peter Frampton, and others, but their sound would be considerably different than the audio signals we received that have woven each so deep into the fabric of rock history.

Eddie Kramer is the man behind countless, HUGE records through the years. He was behind the board for nearly every Jimi Hendrix track ever, including posthumous projects; engineered five (of nine) Led Zeppelin albums; spent Woodstock (1969) in a trailer behind the stage where he recorded the entire festival; and recorded Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive. The exhaustive list of projects he has been a part of, and/or artists he has worked with, is simply ridiculous. But here are a few more: David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Santana, Derek and the Dominoes, Joe Cocker, Curtis Mayfield, Petula Clark, John Mayall, The Beatles, Bad Company, Lauren Hill, Traffic, Frank Zappa, Buddy Guy, Robin Trower and Twisted Sister.

During the recording of Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin II, an interesting thing happened on “Whole Lotta Love.” Here’s the story, according to Kramer, from his official bio:

“Zep II was mixed over a two day period in New York, and at one point there was bleed-through of a previously recorded vocal in the recording of “Whole Lotta Love.” It was the middle part where Robert [Plant] screams ‘Wo-man. You need it.’ Since we couldn’t re-record at that point, I just threw some echo on it to see how it would sound and Jimmy [Page] said ‘Great! Just leave it’.”

Here’s the song. Jump to the 4:00 mark to hear the part he’s referring to.

Kramer was a musician first. In other words, he knew what he was talking about in the recording studio setting. Eddie, born in South Africa, studied classical piano, cello and violin at the South African College of Music. According to this official bio, “he moved to England at 19, where he recorded local jazz groups in a home-based studio and installed hi-fi equipment as a hobby. In 1964 he joined Pye studios, and recorded a variety of artists including Sammy Davis Jr., Petula Clark and The Kinks…”

Before long, Kramer had connected with a guitarist by the name of Jimi Hendrix. In the following video, from Guitar Center TV, Eddie shares a great story about Jimi from 1968.

From his book Behind The Glass: Top Record Producers Tell How They Craft the Hits, Volume 2, Howard Massey shares:

“Heavy metal may owe its heart and soul to Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, but it owes its powerhouse sound to Eddie Kramer. The South African-born engineer/producer not only worked with both artists in their creative heyday but later went on to produce such second-generation metal mainstays as Kiss, Anthrax and Twisted Sister, as well as – surprise! – mainstream artists like Carly Simon, Santana and Peter Frampton. Clearly, the guy’s got a resume to kill for. More importantly, through the years he’s developed a distinct sonic signature that has made him a true legend in record production.”

In terms of masters behind the scenes, there are few as important as Eddie Kramer. Few people consider someone in his role when enjoying their favorite music. The artist typically gets all of the credit. Is that the way it should be? No, but it’s how it will be.

Eddie Kramer has left an indelible mark on music history, and continues to to this day (see video below).

Most think they’ve never heard him. But they have.

*Kramer also happens to be a pretty mean photographer, and has documented his journey very well. Check out his amazing collection at Kramer Archives.

Multiple Bands, Multiple Success

A lot of people wish they were in a successful band. But what about the select few that are in multiple successful bands? It’s like some sort of elite grouping of people with egos that are so huge they had to spread it across multiple acts. Ok, maybe their egos weren’t the only factor, but it’s probably at the root of any reason you can come up with.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list; the purpose is to bring attention to this interesting (and somewhat rare) process. And I’m not saying that all of the following bands were necessarily “successful,” but they are certainly worth being part of the conversation.

Eric Clapton is the undeniable poster-boy for multiple bands, multiple success. The dude is ridiculous. His writing of “Layla” would be plenty to put him in the mega-success category, but no, there’s more. Clapton’s resume of purposefully-formed music groups goes like this: The Yardbirds, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Powerhouse, Cream, Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, Derek and the Dominos.

Jimmy Page was also part of The Yardbirds before Led Zeppelin.

Slash didn’t make the cut for Poison, but became part of Guns ‘N’ Roses.

Paul McCartney was in a band called The Quarrymen before The Beatles, which was followed by Wings.

Chris Cornell went from Soundgarden to Audioslave.

Three members of Rage Against the Machine joined Cornell to form Audioslave (Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk).

John McVie was part of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers before joining up with Fleetwood Mac.

Jimi Hendrix was part of Jimmy James and the Blue Flames before starting The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Jeff Beck was another member of The Yardbirds before The Honeydrippers.

Robert Plant was part of The Honeydrippers following Led Zeppelin.

Traveling Wilburys comprised: Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison.

This could go on and on and on. Please comment with transitions that are interesting to you.

When is a band no longer a band?

There comes a time when it’s just over. But when your livelihood has depended on it for years, it’s hard to let it go. I get it.

What is a band to do when the “face,” or “faces” of the group, are no longer? Is it still the same band? 

Would Fleetwood Mac be Fleetwood Mac without Mick Fleetwood? No. Keep in mind he’s the drummer.

Would a line-up of Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Jason Bonham and some non-Robert Plant dude as lead singer constitute an actual Led Zeppelin reunion tour in 2009? I say no, although one-half of the original band is present in this (much-rumored) line-up. One original member is no longer alive, but you have the closest representation possible – John Bonham’s son. Regardless, could we really call it Led Zeppelin without Plant? I say no.

Pink Floyd without Syd Barrett? We know that happened. Pink Floyd without Roger Waters? Yes, that happened too. A Pink Floyd reunion tour in 2009? Well, the version that toured and released a couple of albums (A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell) without Waters had Richard Wright, but he passed away in 2008. What if David Gilmour and Waters were to let the past be past, join up with Nick Mason and hit the road right now? Would that be a full-on Pink Floyd tour?

How about Stone Temple Pilots without Scott Weiland? I say a resounding no.

GNR without Slash, Duff, Izzy and Steven/Matt? I say absolutely not. And if Axl is the primary “face” of that band, and he’s still putting out GNR albums, why does it so feel like it ended about 15 years ago?

Lynyrd Skynyrd? GNR’s laughable line-up changes almost disappear when put next to Skynyrd’s. 

We could go through countless case-studies like these, and there’s never going to be a clear-cut answer. But my thinking here is that at some point, retain the true credibility by calling it quits.

There simply comes a point when you need to let the past be the past. Hey, I wanted that Zeppelin reunion as bad as anyone. However, the more I think about it, it’s probably better that it didn’t happen. 

The mystery is way more intriguing.

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