Episode #3: Welcome to the Jungle (Part 2) Ft. Domenic Priore

We conclude our look back at the Jungle by picking up in 1964 during the counterculture riots that started when the city put curfews in place in an effort to shut down the venues and turn the Strip into a financial district. Domenic Priore author of Riot...


We conclude our look back at the Jungle by picking up in 1964, during the counterculture riots that started when the city put curfews in place in an effort to shut down the venues and turn the Strip into a financial district. Domenic Priore author of Riot on the Sunset Strip; Rock and Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood takes us from this defining moment through the late 1980s to understand and recognize that the success of Guns N’ Roses didn’t happen in a vacuum. They were part of a continuum of artists and musicians starting in the early 1960s who came to Hollywood to take the stage, pursue the dream, change the world and reap the rewards like The Byrds, The Doors, Van Halen, and eventually GN’R.

Domenic provides an exhaustive account of the decades leading up to the Metal scene in the 1980s after the electrification of rock n’ roll revitalized the clubs and established Hollywood as the new center of rock n’ roll, shifting the cultural gravity from New York to Los Angeles.

Episode Highlights

1:45 Meet Domenic Priore

2:05 Learn how the Sunset Strip Hollywood glamour of the 30s, 40s, and 50s faded and was replaced by the counterculture movement and the electrification of rock n' roll.

6:30 Find out which bands that defined the late-1960s Sunset Strip renaissance and created the culture shift that drew the music scene to L.A. from New York.

9:32 The city of Los Angeles started to crack down on the burgeoning music and countercultural scene on the strip and tried to designate the area as a financial district.

11:57 Riot on the Sunset Strip!

16:40 The Citizens Active for Facts and Freedom fund a benefit concert that would inspire the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock.

18:46 The Roxy opens, financed by David Geffen.

19:35 1970s Rock n' roll become compartmentalized into niche radio stations and loses diversity.

21:03 Punk rock and Metal start a musical and physical turf war on the Sunset Strip.

21:45 Enter, Van Halen!

23:30 The Whiskey closes at the height of the early punk and new wave scene and MTV launched. A true "scene change" for the L.A. music scene.

24:45 The origin of the Headbangers Ball on MTV

26:00 The clubs institute "Pay-to-Play" for bands willing to raise the cash.

27:12 Did Heavy Metal bands originate out of the "white flight" movement to the San Fernando Valley suburbs?

29:30 The bands in the 80s on the strip handed out all the tickets they paid for to girls and just packed the clubs with girls.

31:27 How did hair metal bands try to forge the next sound in rock n roll? What was alternative rock?

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Transcript

SPEAKERS

Domenic Priore, Jason Porath

Jason Porath  00:01

A lot of the kids from all over the country now are still coming to the Strip.

 

Domenic Priore  00:05

When it comes to rock star dreams, they were still thinking of the Sunset Strip as it was iconically in the 60s when bands broke from there.

 

Jason Porath  00:18

Welcome to the First 50 Gigs, Guns and Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction. This is part two of our look back at the history of the Sunset Strip. In our last episode, author Laurie Jacobson took us back to the Hollywood of the early 1900s, where film executives and movie stars, tired of being harassed by the LAPD for living their bohemian lifestyle, relocated to the orange groves of Beverly Hills. Their commute to Hollywood from their new home would give rise to a mile and a half stretch in the Township of Sherman that would become known as the Sunset Strip, and spawned numerous clubs, restaurants, bars and bordellos. Laurie's entertaining account took us up to the early 1960s when Hollywood left for another strip, Las Vegas, and left a vacuum that would soon be filled by a growing counterculture movement and the electrification of rock n'roll. In this episode, we're going to pick up where Laurie left off and continue through time from the 1960s to the late 1980s, a rock n' roll journey that starts with the bands like the Byrds and the Doors and ends when GNR rockets to international success. Today we're talking to Domenic Priore, author of "Riot on the Sunset Strip: Rock n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood." The book has been referred to as the "Holy Grail of an era," and Domenic is here to tell us how the center of gravity of rock n' roll shifted to Los Angeles during this time. Domenic, welcome to the show.

 

Domenic Priore  01:45

Good afternoon. Good morning and good evening.

 

Jason Porath  01:51

We understand and appreciate your deep encyclopedic knowledge of this era. I'd like to start off just prior to the riots. Let's talk about some of the dynamics in the 1960s that gave rise to those riots that you wrote about.

 

02:05

The showbiz entertainment movie star kind of strip faded away, like in the late 50s. And it was replaced by a combination of things of the bebop jazz era and in the folk music era, and they combined to be more of a serious intellectual Sunset Strip than a glamorous movie star strip. And then when the Beatles broke, the first thing that happened was rock bands started to try to grab onto the folk music, the meaning of the folk music songs, and the progressive nature of the jazz that had happened. You get this one band, The Byrds, who do both. They started out by recording Bob Dylan's song, "Mr. Tambourine Man," which wasn't really out yet. It was something that Bob had worked with The Byrds on for about six hours one day in late 1964. The Whiskey-a-go-go and PJ's and some of these clubs, they've been going on with a little bit of rock n' roll, but it was more twist craze instant dance craze, kind of like rock n' roll. When The Byrds came, it just changed the whole nature of the Strip and turned it into this progressive political landscape for music. Start with The Doors start with Frank Zappa, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young, and Stephen Stills. All these artists had serious interest in the progression of the ideas of the underground movement. It was all like, "Change the world, we want to change now."

 

Jason Porath  03:32

You also talked about in your book that the nightclubs on the Sunset Strip played a role in breaking down racial barriers that would unleash this collaboration and even fusion of country rock, and R&B and Jazz.

 

Domenic Priore  03:49

Back even in the 50s, when the Mocambo and places were still open Marilyn Monroe brought [Ella Fitzgerald] to the Mocambo and said,"we want to see Ella Fitzgerald in this exclusive club." The exclusivity of the old Hollywood glamour here wasn't really as pretty as some people like to make it out to be. It was like a racially messed up thing. But by the mid-60s, we had clubs like the Trip where all the Motown artists would come. The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Martha and the Vandellas; they all played on at this place called The Trip which was owned by the Whiskey-a-Go-Go and we had local acts here like Billy Preston and Watt's 103rd Street Rhythm Band and Senior Soul, who became War They're all happening on the Strip too at the same time as The Byrds and Frank Zappa.

 

Jason Porath  04:41

With The Byrds, it sounds like there was this rebirth of the clubs where L.A. rock n' roll was formed and the scene that it spawned drew people from all over the world to kind of join in the party and live the dream.

 

Domenic Priore  04:59

The Byrds played a place called Ciro's. It was the original 1940 Hollywood glamour joint that spawned Las Vegas because the guy who opened it, Billy Wilkerson, his next project was The Flamingo. The Byrds took over this joint and it was the class spot of the 40s and now the spot of the 60s. Here's Bob Dylan and The Byrds playing there and shortly after that everybody was talking about the Strip, even on both coasts. Right away these places that had been closed or were inactive or doing something stupid and just completely switched to progressive psychedelic folk-rock. Gazzarri's moved from La Cienega up to the Sunset Strip. That was one of the first ones, and Ciro's became It's Boss with pop art paintings on the wall, and Pandora's Box went from being a beatnik club to a garage rock dance club. The Sea Witch had been around since '57, but it became where The Doors and The Seeds and bands like that played. All of a sudden, it was a complete changeover right after The Byrds. They changed the strip immediately.

 

Jason Porath  06:04

Laurie talked about in the mid-1900s. It was quite a scene on the Sunset Strip. You have the clubs and you had great restaurants and people were walking this mile and a half strip going from place to place. And there was a scene. That scene, left once the Vegas Strip opened up. Describe the scene that grew around this counterculture time that you're talking about.

 

Domenic Priore  06:30

At the beginning of it, it was really like a super hip...new Hollywood movies were not even happening yet. But the people who were going to be in them were there, like Michael Pollard from Bonnie and Clyde who was one of the regulars of The Byrds. Mary Travers would come down there from Peter, Paul and Mary. It was like the East Coast was showing up. The new Hollywood movie actors in their youth were showing up. And then eventually kids from other parts of L.A.: the East L.A. kids started showing up, the beach kids starting showing up, the kids from the Valley started showing up. All the local Hollywood kids, they were all gravitated there because it started as a place to dance. The Whiskey-a-Go-Go and PJ's were the first two twist clubs and the early Gazzarri's on La Cienega were places people just went to dance and fraternize. If you were a little too old to be in high school, and go to high school dance, you go there. But in 1965, all the restaurant vibe of the clubs that Laurie probably talked about, they grandfathered the clubs in so you could have a license where you could drink and eat, but if you were a kid, you get a stamp on your hand. And you could be 16 and go to the Whiskey-a-Go-Go if you want. And I think they still have that grandfathered rule in about somebody who's a teenager can actually go there. Any new clubs, after that era, they didn't allow that anymore. Now teenagers from high schools became a big part of this new hip thing and social consciousness was a big part of it. 1965 was the year that President Johnson decided to escalate the Vietnam War and there was the "Artists Protest Committee." They were part of the Ferris Gallery scene on La Cienega, the whole pop art scene where Warhol did his first show at The Ferris. The Artists Protest Committee were about ten years older than all the teenagers coming to the Strip. And they were starting to put on demonstrations against the Vietnam War in 1965. This was before anybody else really was doing it. The kids picked up on this protest. The Civil Rights Movement had already been happening in the black community for the first half of the 60s. Beginning with the March on Washington that Martin Luther King did. The "I Have a Dream" speech in '63. This was just on the heels of that. The black protesting started first and then the white kids started to come along and be a part of that; also into civil rights, but also into the Vietnam War protests. They just didn't really want to have the racism. They didn't want to have to go to the Vietnam War, which was nonsense.

 

Jason Porath  09:18

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Domenic Priore  09:32

As soon as the posh Hollywood vibe ended in the late 50s, all those clubs were booking in bebop jazz, which means black artists. And Ernest E. Debs, County Supervisor, thought, "Well, this is a depression of the area." That's what they were thinking. So they felt that they were going to depress the economy of the area. They thought that was going to cause the rent to go down. They could sell that land and build high rises and two of them were actually built. The 9000 building and the Playboy building were both originally supposed to be banking interests. They wanted to move Spring Street, the financial district of L.A., to the Sunset Strip so that it would be closer to the money of Beverly Hills. But, they didn't expect like the Beatles to turn the folk and jazz thing into this diverse progressive music scene that was going to color the world. No way!

 

Jason Porath  10:27

So what led up to the riots of 1966?

 

Domenic Priore 10:29

The Strip got more popular than you could ever imagine. We didn't have arena rock in the 60s. The only place you could see somebody like The Beatles, or the Rolling Stones would be the Hollywood Bowl. You got to see bands in small nightclubs. If the Supremes or The Temptations or The Miracles came, you would go up to a nightclub on the Sunset Strip. If "Them" came, or some of these groups from England like the Young Rascals came to New York, they played the Whiskey. They didn't play some arena, they played a club, but they played six or seven nights. If you can imagine, the popularity of the rock scene, like during the post-Woodstock years where people were going to arenas, all of those people, instead of going to arenas and being jumbled into one place. they were all over the Sunset Strip going to the Sea Witch, Andorra's. It was just everywhere, and it was way more than Ernest Debs coud handle. So, he got some of the property owners. They kind of became the mouthpiece in the newspapers for the old-fashioned Sunset Strip, which barely existed. It was like two different sets of businessmen: the old-fashioned restaurant owners of the Montgomery Sunset Plaza era or the nightclub owners who wanted to have revenue from all these groups and all these kids that were coming in. They were the ones who really were behind this whole idea of getting rid of all the teenagers on the Strip, and they had no idea where they put them or where they would go.

 

Domenic Priore  11:57

There was a lot of physical beatings and harassment. In November of 1966, there was five nights in a row where the kids came up the Strip with signs, and, as depicted in the Stephen Stills / Buffalo Springfield, song, "For What It's Worth," "Singing songs and carrying signs." That's what they were doing, saying, "Great for our side." And the thing that was the big trigger -- when they really decided to move in on the kids -- was in May of 1966 when Andy Warhol brought the Exploding Plastic Inevitable and the Velvet Underground with Niko to The Trip. They had this show which were light shows and part of it was Mary Woronov and Gerard Malanga with whips and stuff. It was just way too much and the police shut that showdown after four days. They busted the Googies, which was at that time called Gigi's. They busted at Canters. There was just all these little busts going around. Finally, the kids got tired of being harassed and so they formed this organized, sit-in demonstration on November 11, 1966. And the curfew really was the excuse for the cops to come in and say, "You're a bunch of teenagers, and you're here past curfew, there's thousands of you and we're gonna start swinging billy clubs." But, the kids kept on coming back there was thousands; the first night, thousands and the second night. And then it was a Monday, so eighty people showed up. And then the next night, two-hundred people showed up. And then Wednesday, another thousand people showed up and it looked like it was going to be a crazy weekend until Mayor Sam Yortie came down and said, "Okay, we'll handle you kids." And they handle them in a secret meeting. That's when they put the kibosh. They closed almost all of the clubs. Closed Pandora's Box, where the scene of the riot actually. It's Boss just handed in their license. That was a big operation. It was the old Ciro's and they just said, "Here!" The Trip closed. All these important places up on the strip just ended. The Whiskey-a-Go-Go stayed open and they switched to all Black acts for a while, until Cream came later that summer. And then all of a sudden they were booked. A huge group from England with Eric Clapton in it. The Sea Witch and the Galaxy both didn't last very long because there was no other street traffic on the Strip anymore. Gazzarri's managed to stay open, and the Whiskey-a-Go-Go managed to stay open. And it was just those two clubs for the longest time until the early 70s.  When people in the music business -- David Geffen and Lou Adler and a bunch of people -- opened the Roxy, they really wanted to open a club that was going to take the dominance of Doug Weston's Troubadour down. The Troubadour had been dominant for the whole period after the Sunset Strip riots because that was on Santa Monica Boulevard and hadn't been closed. It was an old folk club, but that's where Elton John debuted in 1970. The Troubadour had a lot of power post-Sunset Strip riots. All the folk-rock acts like the Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds started new groups that played the Troubadour. Poco, and Dillard and Clark, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Grand Parsons and all these people started to go down, "At least we could play the Troubadour." And the Troubadour broke open. Linda Ronstadt was one of the top artists who broke from there. It was a big place and the Roxy opened up on the Strip in opposition to Doug Weston's stranglehold on all the groups who wanted to play clubs at the time.

 

Jason Porath  15:27

In the 1960s we saw a lot of record studios and record companies start out and really further establish Los Angeles as the center of gravity or the nerve center for rock n' roll. You had RCA, you talk about Geffen, and he started Asylum Records, there was a lot of activity and a lot of these places that were now grounding L.A. as that center. I just want to give a little context before we get to the Roxy, that a lot was going on in L.A. to solidify that place as the cultural center of rock n' roll.

 

Domenic Priore 16:04

Ironically, when the riots happened in November of 1966, all of a sudden, there was a benefit concert. This concert was put together to pay legal fees for a lot of the kids who had been jailed. It also paid for some of the damages that the kids had caused. The police are 100% to blame for the riot aspect. It was a sit-in demonstration. It was much like Occupy Wall Street, where people were just sitting there. You know, "Leave us alone!" They just came in and started whipping them around. To pay for some of the damages and some of the legal fees of the kids, Citizens Active for Facts and Freedom, who was the organizer of the demonstration itself, put on a concert. It was The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Hugh Masekela, The Byrds, Peter, Paul and Mary. And it was at the Valley Music Theater. That went so well, that the organizers of that said, "Let's start this other thing like it and you're going to do it in the Bay Area." And it became the Monterey Pop Festival. A lot of the record companies just descended on that. Columbia was was a pretty musically conservative, politically progressive label, let's put it that way. They didn't want to sign a lot of rock n' roll artists until they sent Clive Davis down to Monterey Pop Festival and he signed Janis Joplin, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and a few other acts there.

 

Jason Porath  17:25

So there were a few pioneers who recognized the opportunity and came out, and the rest probably followed?

 

Domenic Priore  17:30

They all kind of just glommed on to the Monterey Pop Festival and said, "That's the next big thing." And then Woodstock happened two years later in New York. Woodstock was just like a copycat version of the Monterey Pop Festival. So in a sense, the Sunset Strip riots begat at the Monterey Pop Festival, and the Monterey Pop Festival begat Woodstock. Now, at Woodstock, you see this tremendous amount of people and that's really when the record labels were like, "Okay, we want that audience. Let us grab that audience."

 

Jason Porath  18:07

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Jason Porath  18:42

In that environment, with all of these kind of beachheads by these record labels, suddenly kind of coming in putting their feet down in the Los Angeles era, David Geffen forms Asylum Records and opens the Roxy to start promoting some of the acts that have signed to his label. Tell us more about that next movement in the story.

 

Domenic Priore  18:47

The Roxy itself was a noble experiment. At first, Neil Young was the opening act. He played his album, "Tonight's the Night," all the way through and they just released it. Then Frank Zappa did not only a live album, but a live concert film that didn't get released until recently too. All of them at the Roxy. So that's kind of how the Roxy began. But then around 1975, 1976, it really started to reflect an older crowd, not what a teenager would really want to hear.  It was more like, somebody who had grown up with The Byrds and then later, Crosby, Stills Nash and Young would like. Maybe some Eagles type music. That's what was playing at the Roxy for the most part. The 70s was a time when this thing called demographics became very important. Every radio station was going to be one sound. The FM radio stations after the mid-70s, became almost strictly hard rock. KMET or KLOS, it's gonna be hard rock, and that's it. You're not gonna hear -- like in the early 70s, I heard "Get Up, Stand Up" by Bob Marley and the Wailers. You're weren't going to hear Bob Marley and the Wailers on FM radio when Ted Nugent was God. It really started to get different than the 60s when the band KISS came out, because that was kind of like all the bad cliches of hard rock thrown into like a clown act, right? And it was for clowns. Screaming and going, "Rock n' Roll!" you know, That just kind of moved on to Ted Nugent, and into the 80s and that's kind of how that happened. It was that big change in the middle 70s where demographics really took over radio and so you only have one style of a radio station here, one style of radio station there. There was no diversity, at all.

 

Jason Porath  20:44

It sounds like with this fragmentation into niche interests and an investment in particular styles -- and let's take classic rock as that style -- it sounds like there was a band that capitalized on that dynamic, who was there at the right place at the right time. And that was Van Halen.

 

Domenic Priore  21:04

They do in one respect because remember, there is also a part of the story that is not getting any broadcast, and that is punk rock. Punk rock did not have a place on the radio, there was no broadcast for it. And soul music just kind of went away. You either got fragments in disco or it just disappeared. People like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Ray Charles were all complaining about disco. It was nuts. Van Halen kind of came in, in a way, at the right time. What I saw happening, there were all these parties that had like the standard kind of rock band and Van Halen was one of them. So these were the progenitors of what we call the hair bands in the 1980s. They were a bit ridiculous, a little bit influenced by glam. "Oh, you're wearing these ridiculous vests with no shirts." These guys had so much makeup on their faces, basically covering their zits. Eddie Van Halen, he was a great guitarist, but he wasn't like a Jimi Hendrix-type guitarist. He was more like a guy who played a lot of scales and he played him really fast. I became a little bit more about technical proficiency. Much like I was speaking about how the studios started turning country rock into yacht rock, so too hard rock became a little bit more slicker. Everything was getting slicker as liquor and Eddie Van Halen fit right into that slot so perfectly because he was playing really basic scales, but he was playing them very fast. I thought, not as much soul as somebody like Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck or Jimi Hendrix or Frank Zappa. No way! Those guys are in a completely different league and Eddie Van Halen is over here. But that's what became the next thing and what we now today call beer commercial guitar.

 

Jason Porath  22:53

So then moving into the 1980s. Let's, let's talk about how the sound evolved. I would imagine, you know, MTV came into being one did MTV launch was that in like 1983.

 

Domenic Priore  23:07

Interestingly, MTV kind of came in around the same year, the Whiskey closed. Now Elmer Valentine had managed the Whiskey from 1964 to 1982. And he closed Whiskey-a-go-go in 1982 as a ruse to get rid of all the punk rock and new wave groups that the club was becoming famous for. Elvis Costello played there, The Police played there, and very little heavy metal played at the Whisky. It was an exciting club in the late 70s and early 80s. MTV comes in and in 1982 the Whiskey closes, so that's really a classic scene change right there.

 

Jason Porath  23:40

Tell me more about that. I think it's interesting that MTV marks a scene change. And what did it change to?

 

Domenic Priore  23:47

The first two years of MTV, not too many people even watched it because a lot of people didn't even have cable, especially in Los Angeles. It was started out as primarily New Wave music on MTV because they thought that it was coming out of New York. They thought that that was the new popular music and New Wave artists were more prone to recording video films. Visuals of hard rock bands were sort of hard to come by. They wanted people to go out and see them play at these larger concert arena shows and they didn't want to do it on TV. The sound was so huge, so they felt that their music wouldn't translate to television. Whereas New Wave artists, they were into the artiness of making a film. When they made a new song, they made a new single and they made a video. The first two or three years of MTV was pretty much dominated by New Wave. But then a couple of things happened and one of them was the pitch to get MTV added to more cable stations and more people started to use cable by the middle of the 80s. And so Michael Jackson and Prince became the two artists that MTV started to put on. And then the Headbangers Ball came on after that. They said, "Hey! What about us Heavy Metal guys. Nobody plays our music." Because nobody in heavy metal had been making videos. So ultimately, Headbangers Ball comes on MTV after that.

 

Jason Porath  25:12

Now we're coming into the 1980s. The bands that are now populating these clubs are changing. You've got Motley Crue that's coming up the Chili Peppers. A lot of interesting bands that are coming out of Fairfax High School, teenagers who are hitting the strip, you have L.A. Guns. Axl and Izzy arrive and suddenly now we have the beginnings of this new era that culminates with Guns N' Roses. Can you talk about this era and some of the music, but I also want to talk about this idea that a lot of the kids from all over the country now are still coming to the Strip to pursue the dream. What was that about?

 

Domenic Priore  25:58

There was a lot of enigma from the 60s and Monterey Pop and everything that were attached to it. It all started here on the Sunset Strip, it all started in Liverpool at the Cavern. It all started on the Sunset Strip. By the early 80s, the Whiskey had closed and then reopened for bands who are willing to "pay-to-play." These were bands whose parents or somebody was paying for them. So when it comes to rockstar dreams, as we saw in, "The Decline of "Western Civilization, Part 2," the Strip was the place to go. They were still thinking of the Sunset Strip as it was, iconically, in the 60s when bands broke from there. The only bands that were playing on the strip in the late 70s, in the early 80s, were punk and New Wave groups, except for Gazzarri's and none of the bands that played at Gazzarri's never really broke, except for Van Halen. And Gazzarri's kicked them out early. The mid-80s was really colored by this whole idea of, "My kid is going to be a rock star, and we're going to give him some money." And the other part of it was a lot of those bands were coming from the San Fernando Valley, right? And the San Fernando Valley had traditionally been "white flight." That's what it's famous for, right? So the children of the white flight parents, they were the ones forming these heavy metal bands, and they really resented punk and New Wave. If there were punk rock kids hanging out on the corner, they would go jump them and things like that. It actually got to be kind of a violent scene. It was a major turf war in Los Angeles for about four years. And then after a while, what happened with punk? They took over Melrose Boulevard and that was a fashion. There was no clubs on Melrose, it was all clothing stores and record stores and other kinds of groovy stores to go to. The whole punk and New Wave thing and the alternative rock music thing just went to the complete other side of town, and they left the Strip, the Whiskey and Gazzarri's for the headbangers.

 

Jason Porath  27:59

It's really fascinating to hear how the dynamics played out because as you start to separate out these various groups, you understand that it really became this homogenous sound that was left remaining on the strip to be exploited eventually by bands like Poison and Motley Crue and later even GNR. I'd love to continue with this idea of the Valley kids moving to the strip to pursue the dream and it resulting in these Headbanger bands. But let's also then tie that to Guns N' Roses and how Guns N' Roses was able to capitalize on this time on the Sunset Strip to become the success that they were.

 

Domenic Priore  28:49

In 1984, the Whiskey-a-Go-Go decided to reopen. I always think of the Whiskey as being the main center of this. The hard rock bands start getting booked in again. It almost seemed like the Whiskey had wiped away the New Wave bands when they closed in '82 and never booked them anymore. Of course, if you had the money to buy it, I'm sure you could book it, but primarily those kids, as Tomata du Plenty of The Screamers said, these were kids with library cards, punk rockers. They were too smart for that. They weren't going for that rock star dream, whereas the guys who did come to the Whisky, they're ready to pay. What ended up happening a lot of times was that you would you buy the tickets, and you're supposed to sell the tickets, almost like when you're a little league baseball. They give you like a box of chocolate bars, right? And you're supposed to go door to door and sell the chocolate bars to all the people on your block and that's how you pay for your being in Little League. The same thing happened with those bands. Instead of selling chocolate bars door to door, they had a box of tickets that they had to sell everybody. What these guys would do was they get the tickets and whatever money they invested in these they give the tickets to girls and then the girls would show up and they would be all girls at their shows. And that's how they did it. Because that's what they were doing it for to begin with. "We make it big, we get orgies," right? So they started out just by handing out these tickets that they paid for to all these girls and they had the place packed with girls. So that's  how that scene started. People started showing up because there's a bunch of girls there. It just seemed like with all the bands that was the same problem. The loser bands that never made it; they did the same thing.

 

Jason Porath  30:26

But in all fairness, I will say there were bands on the Strip that were trying to create a new sound. Even though they may have been there following the Glam Rock and Hair Metal and Sleaze Rock pathway, they were still drawing influences from rock n' roll, from funk, from pop, to forge a new sound. I actually think this is what made GNR so successful is that they were able to fuse together these influences into a new sound. I do think that bands at the time there were some that were just trying to capitalize on the scene that you described and they were coming from Valley and they were dressing up and they were they're milking it for what they could until they could get it a contract and all the girls. Yet, there were some other dedicated bands and musicians who were trying to forge the next sound. And I think GNR accomplished that.

 

Domenic Priore  31:27

When it comes to the groups that played in the 80s in L.A., I just pretty much saw the same kind of posturing, so to speak, and the same kind of sound. a couple of bands were different. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, they really mined what would become an alternative rock audience. There was tonality in the 80s of what was going to become alternative rock. I don't think Guns N' Roses was that. Los Angeles in the 1980s -- I think this colors the music of those bands -- was a very troublesome spot. It was a different Los Angeles than it was; a scary Los Angeles. It was carjackings. It was drive-by shootings, the crack epidemic and the bad things that led up to Rodney King in 1992. And it was political. That was a big part of it. Like the Reagan era embodied a lot of the tonality of what the heavy metal bands had. And I think the difference between heavy metal and alternative rock is that the people involved in alternative rock are politically left. A lot of the people that I ran into in the 1980s were politically right. And punk rock had always been that by the way. Punk rock was a bunch of people saying the hippies have become complacent and they're actually starting to run things now and they're running them in a bad way. That's part of the reason why there was this separation between punk and alternative and then the heavy metal guys. It was also politically different. I always like to make clear, though, that punk rock and alternative rock were on both ends of the metal spectrum before and after were all politically motivated. That's how it was. So rock n' roll has been political since the 50s. Since it began.

 

Jason Porath  33:21

Dominic, our time is up here. I really want to thank you for taking us from the 1960s to the 1980s and really unpacking all of these dynamics. I think it's very interesting to hear that there is this line of demarcation in the ideologies of different genres of rock n' roll that was driving some of the activity on the Sunset Strip and beyond. Thank you for helping us to understand that and it helps us really to put GNR in the right place in time, where they were, and how that facilitated their rise.

Jason Porath  34:16

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