Saturday, October 7, 2017

Sad Face

I didn't only get beat up by punks. The hair metal groupies didn't much care for the whole circle of new wavers that invaded nearly every other club in L.A. One of my first jobs was working for a company called EMMC that answered fan mail and sold t-shirts at events around the city. The client base was heavy metal bands like Dokken and Motley Cru, country artists and even some heavy hitters like Bowie, the BeeGees and The Jacksons. One of the company owner's sons was, at the time, bringing over and managing  the new wave of British bands that would, by the 80s, take over the L.A. music scene; bands like Depeche Mode and Haircut 100 and Gang of Four. Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel is a posh celeb outpost today. In the late 70s it was nothing but a ramshackle and haunted old silver screen mess, and that's where we'd put up the bands. We celebrated Dave Gahan’s 18th birthday at the pool; entertained Blancmange at the hotel bar. Was it the best job an 18 year old could have? – none better. By 1980, thereabouts, headliners for The Roxy, The Whiskey A Go-Go, and The Palladium were bands like Talking Heads, Spandau Ballet and New Order, but the Starwood would take a different route. When we'd show up in 50s retro gear from Cowboys and Poodles and Flip, we were like fodder for the big-haired crowd. I didn't care. It was alive and loud and drinks were cheap, not to mention they had the best French fries in town. While the Troubadour, the Palladium, the Roxy and the Rainbow still exist, the Starwood closed in 1982, without warning (serving alcohol to minors, as it turns out), the red-lettered marquee proclaiming that they were "making improvements" and they would open soon. The sign was up till they tore the venue down, several years later. I remember getting roughed up in the parking lot and called "queer." I don’t know, what's queer about a sleeveless argyle sweater vest and a bowtie. Oh, I guess I understand.

The Starwood, 8151 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, California
Closed in 1982
Before the Starwood, the club was called PJ's, a stellar jazz nightclub in the 60's that attracted film and TV personalities. Managed by Elmer Valentine, the founder of Whiskey a Go-Go, PJ's was bought out by an organized crime figure, Eddie Nash, and christened the Starwood. The venue served as the stomping grounds of talents in the late '70s, spawning the careers of many bands like Black Flag, Ratt, the Germs, the Knack, Motley Crue, and Van Halen. Even though the club was closed down in 1981 due to underage drinking citations, the legendary club lives on in the lyrics and early memories of Anthony Kiedis, who had to sneak into the Starwood to catch his favorite shows. I think maybe Anthony Kiedis was one of the guys who beat me up.

The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, California
Closed in 1968
Famous for: Housing all the top '60s psychedelic bands like Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival and more. The venue didn't just showcase rock acts but also featured jazz virtuoso Miles Davis, timeless songstress Aretha Franklin, and soul singer Otis Redding and poetry readings. Many of the famous Acid Tests were held at the Fillmore, with The Grateful Dead as house band. When the Fillmore was relocated to the Fillmore West in 1968, the Elite Club moved into the original Fillmore's location. The Elite Club showcased bands like Bad Religion, Black Flag, Bad Brains, and more. The Fillmore West, at 10 Van Ness Avenue, would continue to host the best names in rock until 1971. Bill Graham, the owner of the Fillmore chains, died in a helicopter crash in 1991, but his remaining wish was to reopen the original location of the Fillmore. His wish was fulfilled in 1994, when the original Fillmore Auditorium finally reopened after nearly 30 years with performances from the Smashing Pumpkins and Primus.

The Fillmore East, Greenwich Village, NYC
Closed on June 27, 1971
Famous for: The recordings of Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys and a legendary performance of John Lennon with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and serving as the counterpart to the existing Fillmore in San Francisco, the Fillmore East opened in 1968 and quickly became known as "The Church of Rock and Roll." Due to the burgeoning growth of the concert industry, the Fillmore East reached its demise in 1971, featuring a closing week with performances from The Allman Brothers Band, Albert King, the Beach Boys, and more. The venue was known for its superb acoustics, which gained attention from acts like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, and Miles Davis, all of whom would later release live CDs recorded at the historic site. Unfortunately, the venue only operated for three years, later serving as the New Fillmore East in 1974, a gay nightclub titled The Saint in 1980, and presently, a savings bank. A signpost is the only thing that marks the spot of this historic venue.

CBGB's, 315 Bowery St., East Village, NYC 
Closed on Oct. 15, 2006
Known as Country, Blue Grass, and Blues, CBGB became home to the punk and new wave movement and cemented itself as one of the most iconic venues in America. It became the hot spot in New York, becoming the home to bands including Television, the Ramones, the Police, the Cramps, the B-52's, Blondie, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Talking Heads, Misfits, and the Ramones. Though the venue flourished throughout the '80s and '90s, it closed in 2006 with a final concert from Patti Smith and appearances from Red Hot Chili Pepper's Flea and Television’s Richard Lloyd.

The Palladium, E. 14th St., NY
Closed in 1997
Most famous for gracing the front cover of The Clash's LP, London Calling, the Palladium was home to two extended sets by The Grateful Dead. The Palladium brought in a number of world-class acts thanks to its prestige and killer acoustics. The venue was originally called the Academy of Music and hosted a number of incredible including the Rolling Stones, Run DMC, and Iggy Pop. Later in its years, the Palladium came to house a number of new wave bands like the Clash and U2; hip-hop acts like Biggie, Tupac, and P. Diddy; and heavy metal outfits like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. After the success of Studio 54, the Palladium was turned into a premier dance club but was later bought out and demolished in 1997 by New York University. Today, it’s a Target.

Though we mourn the loss of these great venues, it is merely the nature of the beast.