The Ten Most Famous Rock & Roll Hotels
Travel widely and you might see some rather famous rock stars’ names in the visitors’ books of hotels…
1. Chelsea Hotel – New York’s tower of song
This is the place where Bob Dylan stayed up for days writing Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands for his enigmatic wife Sara. Dylan is not the only star to have found inspiration while hanging up the Do not Disturb sign outside a Chelsea Hotel room; Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey when he was holed up there in the 1960s.
Tragically, some celebrities have never checked out of there alive – Sid Vicious’s girlfriend Nancy Spungen overdosed at the Chelsea in October 1978.
Today, the hotel has stopped accepting new long-term residencies and suspicions that the current landlord wants to evict the current tenants were aired at a fractious public meeting in February 2012. Could it be that soon all we have to remember the Chelsea by are classic songs like Chelsea Girl by Nico and Chelsea Hotel #2 by Leonard Cohen? Don’t forget to put this on your list of things to do in New York.
2. Hotel Adlon – home of the most famous balcony in music history
There is plenty of stunning scenery to be seen from the rooms of Berlin’s Hotel Adlon; it’s near the Reichstag Building and opposite the Brandenburg Gate – once the gateway to this historic city.
Perhaps Michael Jackson was trying to give his son Blanket a better view of the building when he dangled him from a Hotel Adlon balcony in November 2002.
3. Hotel California – “such a lovely place”
‘Plenty of room at the Hotel California’ sang the melancholy Eagles on their 1977 hit single Hotel California but they didn’t add that you might well have to book early.
Although The Eagles are rumored to have written the song with Chateau Marmont in mind, The Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard has become more closely associated with Hotel California – its exterior features on the cover of the band’s 1976 album of the same name. And you can find The Beverly Hills hotel “any time of year” as it’s still open and is a very popular meeting place for the movers and shakers in the LA film and music industry.
The song has certainly boosted the Beverly Hills Hotel’s popularity – something that wouldn’t have been the case if the tune’s working title (‘Mexican Reggae’) had stuck.
4. Joshua Tree Inn – loved by Gram Parsons
There is no gravestone marking the life of country-rock singer Gram Parsons but there is the Joshua Tree Inn. This is the place where Parsons spent his last hours on 19th September 1973 after a day of heavy morphine and alcohol consumption.
As he had always stated that he wished to be cremated at Joshua Tree Memorial Park the task of fulfilling his wish seemed a simple one. However, his corpse had to be ‘kidnapped’ by some drunken friends at Los Angeles International Airport before the cremation could (secretly) be carried out.
Today you can visit the hotel room where Gram breathed his last – room 8 is a popular place of pilgrimage for all those who worshipped Gram’s soulful voice. And the setting – the type of cacti-populated desert landscape featured on the cover of U2’s The Joshua Tree album – is the perfect place to listen to his haunting music.
5. Chateau Marmont: always has vacancies for hell-raisers
Chateau Marmont is another hotel associated with Gram Parsons (and many other rock stars). Located on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, California, the hotel featured on the cover of Gram’s solo album GP.
The hotel was designed to be earthquake-proof and has survived major earthquakes in 1933, 1953, 1971, 1987 and 1994. Even more impressively, it has withstood visits from the likes of Blues Brother John Belushi, rock god Jim Morrison and hell-raising music legends Led Zeppelin.
Belushi died of a drug overdose in one of the hotel’s garden bungalows; Morrison injured his spine there after dangling from a drain pipe and Zeppelin entertained guests by riding motorbikes through the hotel lobby.
More recently, Lana Del Ray has kept alive the Chateau’s association with music by including grainy footage of the hotel in the video to her smash hit single Video Games.
6. Clarence Hotel, Dublin: the hotel that Bono built
In 1992, Bono and fellow U2 band member the Edge bought Dublin’s two-star 70-bedroom Clarence Hotel. The duo took time off from song-writing to convert the building into a five-star 49-bedroom establishment and attracted celebrity guests like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. Whether the hotel was the inspiration for the film Million Dollar Hotel, penned by Bono and released in 2000, is not known; the hotel has certainly done better than the movie has.
7. Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Canada: a great place for a productive lie-in
On 1st June 1969 the walls of Room 1742 of Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel shook to the sound of handclaps, tambourines, guitars and a choir of chanting voices. The fact that none of the other guests complained might have had something to do with the fact that the main singer was John Lennon; who was recording the song ‘Give Peace A Chance’ as part of a bed-in peace protest.
8. Sheraton Gunter Hotel, San Antonio, Texas: cradle of the blues
Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in downtown San Antonio, Texas gets no special mention on the hotel’s website and yet it is a location which is revered by disciples of the blues…
This is the place where, on November 23rd 1936, blues guitarist Robert Johnson would set up camp for a legendary recording session. Johnson performed while facing the wall – guests at the hotel have long speculated whether this was because of his shyness or an attempt to improve the acoustics.
The three-day recording sessions were interrupted when Johnson was imprisoned but it mattered little – masterpieces like Come On In My Kitchen and Dust My Broom were already in the can – Cross Road Blues would follow when he was released.
9. The Fort Harrison Hotel, Clearwater, Florida – satisfaction guaranteed
In May 1965 Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richard woke up in his hotel room at the Jack Tar Harrison Hotel with a riff and a snatch of lyrics in his head. He recorded the ‘song idea’ on a primitive tape recorder lying next to his bed and went back to sleep; awaking to listen back to “forty minutes of snoring” and two minutes of an idea which would later become the song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.
You can still follow in Keith’s footsteps and stay in The Fort Harrison but only if you become a scientologist – it is the spiritual headquarters of the church’s Florida branch.
10. Morrison Hotel
There is a good explanation why the members of The Doors who pose on the front cover of Morrison Hotel look a little uncomfortable; they’re not really supposed to be there.
The band had asked the owners of Morrison Hotel, located at 1246 South Hope Street in Los Angeles, if they could have their photos taken under the hotel sign and had been told they couldn’t. They sneaked in and took the snap anyway but fans of the Doors who want to re-create the front cover shot will be disappointed – the hotel closed years ago and is now, sadly, no more real than Elvis’s Heartbreak Hotel.
This is a guest post by James Christie, who writes for travel services firm FHR.