We’ve put together a list of places that inspired, or were home to some of the most significant figures in Rock n’Roll and for this reason, still attract lots of fans. Let’s take a look at some of the most important ones and maybe inspire a road trip across the USA in a motorhome.
1. Nico and New York
Chelsea Girl, 1967
“Here’s Room 506 …” The opening lyrics of the song performed by Andy Warhol’s muse Nico, the model, singer and actress famous in the 1960s and 1970s, refer to the famous Chelsea Hotel. Based on Lou Reed’s lyrics, Nico’s melancholy voice sings about the odd collection of characters occupying the corridors of this place, that were a passing parade of the New York underground. For her first solo album Chelsea Girl, the former German model Nico had members of the now famous Velvet Underground as her backing band. It also included songs by Bob Dylan (I’ll keep it with mine) and the newcomer Jackson Browne, whose song These Days is now a classic. Simultaneously with her singing career, this sixties icon became the muse of the French filmmaker Philippe Garrel and appeared in several experimental movies – one of them Frederico Fellini’s classic La Dolce Vita.
222 West on 23rd St, Manhattan: the address well known to the pop planet and artistic elite of the 60’s and 70’s. The Chelsea Hotel, a brick building built in 1883, housed within its psychedelic walls at various times legends like Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell (who immortalised the hotel in the form of her song “Chelsea Morning” after which one president’s daughter ̶ Chelsea Clinton ̶ was named) and also the film director Milos Forman. The manager of the hotel offered free meals and accommodation to his poorest customers. Run down now, the Chelsea Hotel is awaiting renovations. Its manager is not ready to throw in the towel just yet though.
However, do visit this monument to Rock ‘n Roll history before it’s too late.
2. The Eagles and Los Angeles
Hotel California, 1976
Los Angeles has always been the “Promised Land” for hopeful new artists. Palm trees, beaches and girls wearing bikinis: is this the perfect place to find inspiration? Well, maybe things changed after several years of hard living in the depraved music scene of LA of the 1970s and 1980s, after partying and drug addiction had taken their toll. This is the background of the cult song by the Eagles whose lyrics have been interpreted in different ways – many see either a rehab centre for rock stars or a satanic hideout. Band member Don Felder made reference when talking about his song to its being a parable about the dark side of the American Dream. Despite it being much longer than is usually acceptable for hit songs, at 6 minutes 30 seconds, Hotel California with its unforgettable guitar solo has had huge success with millions of copies sold worldwide and is considered a classic.
The lyrics referring to the Hotel California being reached by “a dark desert highway” have symbolic significance, even though Beverly Hills does come very close to this description.
Head in the direction of Miami Beach via the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset in your RV with the song playing at full blast to really feel the atmosphere!
3. Elvis Presley and Memphis, Tennessee
Don’t be Cruel, 1956
Who doesn’t have a smile on their face when listening to Elvis? The suggestive dance moves of The King (of Rock n Roll), combined with the blues and country tone and rhythm of his songs plunged the puritan America of the fifties into a mystical rapture with the hip movements to match that so shocked the establishment and parents alike. It was in 1956 that the USA made the breakthrough move into its musical history thanks to Elvis with memorable songs like Don’t Be Cruel written by Otis Blackwell. In December of that same year, Elvis ran into Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash at Sun Records studios in Memphis.
Blues, rock n’roll, country … Memphis was the place where the most important trends of American popular music of the twentieth century emerged.
Start your pilgrimage at 706 Union Avenue, the address of Sun Studio. It is here in 1951 that Rockett 88 was recorded, the very first rock song. Then head to Beale Street, the historical source of blues music. Finish with a visit to Graceland, the famous residence of Elvis, transformed nowadays into a museum.
4. Nirvana and Seattle, Washington
Come As You Are, 1992
Written and created as an anthem to those who were “different” and marginalised because of it, the now-classic song by Nirvana Come as You Are was first a reference point for the Grunge Movement of the 90s and then an international hit, similar to the song Smells like Teen Spirit which was an instant hit with the release of Nirvana’s second album. With the distinctive tuning of his guitar and Kurt Cobain’s instantly recognisable voice, grunge music and the grunge movement which emerged as an evolution of punk and alternative rock, exploed from the underground scene of Seattle onto the music channel MTV, paving the way for other bands such Alice in Chains.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your musical road trip!