By Terry Trucco
Sex, drugs and fluffy pillows. Think about it, dude. Rock musicians spend a lot of time on the road. The lucky ones score suites in some of the world’s best hotels. Those that don’t often crash in intriguingly oddball places. And things happen. Rooms get trashed. TVs get tossed into the pool. Harleys get driven into the lobby.
In short, there’s a lot of rock history lurking in hotel rooms around the world – enough to fill a book, or at least a new guidebook like Rock & Roll Hotels (Punk Publishing; British pounds10.99). In this cloth-covered, 198-page volume, slim enough to slip into a pocket, backpack or guitar case, British music promoter Greg Simmons escorts the reader through 45 rock-tinged hotels in Europe, North America and the Pacific. The result is well researched, trivia enriched and fun.
Q. Where did Alice Cooper order white mice from room service for his pet boa constrictor?
A. The Portobello hotel in London, a small house hotel in Notting Hill hotel (and one of our favorites).
The hotels range from rock pilgrim sites, like Room 16 at L’Hotel in Paris, once occupied by the Doors’ Jim Morrison and author Oscar Wilde, and Suite 1742 at Montreal’s Fairmont, The Queen Elizabeth where John Lennon and Yoko recorded “Give Peace a Chance” to hotels owned by rock stars or their families, like Marley Resort and Spa in Nassau, the Bahamas, a former vacation home of reggae artist Bob Marley now operated by his family. Also noted are hotels that court traveling musicians, like London’s Soho Sanctum, which services guitars and amplification equipment.
The book layers on factoids about familiar places, like the Elvis-themed Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis, which includes a 24-hour Elvis TV channel, and Chateau Marmont, the boho/glam West Hollywood manse overlooking Sunset Strip. The latter, Simmons writes, has been a hang-out at one time or another for Judy Garland, actor James Dean, country rocker Gram Parsons, the band Led Zeppelin (the aforementioned Harleys in the lobby), Jim Morrison, the band the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Finnish rocker Ville Valo, actor Heath Ledger and actor John Belushi, who overdosed in Bungalow 3.
In fact, a shockingly (or not) high percentage of the hotels have hosted rock stars on their final night on the planet, among them Hollywood’s Highland Gardens (singer Janis Joplin), California’s Joshua Tree Inn (Gram Parsons), San Antonio’s Sheraton Gunter (1930s blues king Robert Johnson) and New Orleans’ St Peter House (the New York Dolls’ Johnny Thunders).
But Simmons is at his best delving into the details of lesser known touring haunts like the Seelbach Hilton in Louisville, Kentucky. Besides checking in 14 Grammy award-winners (Norah Jones, Billy Joel, the Grateful Dead, Robert Plant), being a favorite of F. Scott Fitzgerald (the lobby was a backdrop for Daisy Buchanan’s wedding in the book The Great Gatsby) and scoring Kentucky’s only AAA-five Diamond restaurant, the hotel was almost torched in 1991 when Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block set off a Molotov cocktail. Talk about rock cred.
New York gets two mentions, one infamous — the Hotel Chelsea (Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Madonna, Sid Vicious et al) and one less so — Le Parker Meridien (Motley Crue, Bono, Bon Jovi, among others). The book doesn’t talk about the Chelsea’s fractious closure for renovations last year (deadline issues, we presume). But we’d have added the Ace, where you can borrow a guitar or turntable for your room and whose lobby attracts top DJs. We’d also have included the Plaza, where we were once caught in a revolving door with Mick Jagger, who seemed very familiar with the place.
Small quibbles. Simmons knows his rock history and his hotels. In addition to details about the facilities, including the rooms, restaurants and, where applicable, fitness centers, all write-ups feature local rock-infused places to see and be seen. Hey, there’s lots more to do at these places besides trash the room.
Rock & Roll Hotels is sold in the UK and is available online in the US from Amazon.