For a city that has such a rich history in music, its future is questionable. The news of Amoeba Music changing locations has many people asking what’s next for Los Angeles. Or, in the words of Axl Rose, “Where do we go now?”
Los Angeles has been a mecca for musicians since the 1930s. Today, the world-famous Sunset Strip remains a beacon for artists – and for those who love music.
On any given night, rock ‘n’ roll fans can walk into the Rainbow Bar & Grill and will likely run into a familiar face. Regulars include everyone from members of popular metal bands to adult film star, Ron Jeremy. The Rainbow opened in 1967 and has managed to remain frozen in time – living somewhere between the ’70s and ’80s. Tributes to Lemmy are hard to miss, while the smell of stale smoke still permeates the air in a strangely exciting way.
Right next door to the Rainbow is The Roxy. Cheech & Chong fans who enter immediately get a sense of what it was like there in the ’70s when the comedy pair shot those famous scenes from “Up in Smoke.”
The Whisky A Go-Go is not far down the street. Stepping inside feels as if you’ve traveled through time to a rock ‘n’ roll destination that inhabited the planet 30 years ago. Just across the way from that historic site, is the Viper Room. Before the Viper Room was even the Viper Room, the building was home to a few different nightclubs.
In the ’40s, the storied club was known as the Melody Room and mobsters, such as Bugsy Siegel, often occupied it. At one point it was called Filthy McNasty’s, and at another point, it was The Central. The Viper Room, as we know it today, opened in 1993, with the help of former co-owner, Johnny Depp.
Like the other places, The Viper Room became a hotspot for celebrities. The same year that it opened, the club notoriously made headlines after actor River Phoenix overdosed just outside of its doors. Despite Phoenix’s death, the venue continued to draw crowds. Even after several changes in ownership, it has remained a haven for musicians.
Marilyn Monroe, Jim Morrison, The Byrds, Frank Zappa, and Mötley Crüe were all synonymous with the area at some point. Every story you hear about an artist and the place they once frequented, becomes an anecdote that paints a much larger picture of a particular space in time.
Remarkably, throughout its changes, the Sunset Strip has remained rooted in the same spirit. Surviving establishments have been the stomping grounds for multiple generations.
As the filmmaking capital of the world, many have tried to capture the city’s magic on screen. Quentin Tarantino’s highly anticipated “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” travels back in time and highlights places such as the former Sunset Strip hotspot, “Pandora’s Box.” While not actually filmed there, 1998’s “A Night at the Roxbury” was all about (as the title would imply), a night at the Roxbury.
To Live and Die in L.A.
The Roxbury offers a notable example of how an establishment on the Strip can see many forms, yet will maintain its own life force.
In the ’40s, the spot housed a supper club called The Players. Imagine walking in and seeing everyone from Humphrey Bogart to Charlie Chaplin. In the ’50s, it became Imperial Gardens. The Roxbury took over the location in the late ’80s, where it remained until the late ’90s. After that, the place reinvented itself as Miyagi’s. Now, it’s the Pink Taco.
Other changes, however, like the closing of Tower Records in 2006, might have foreshadowed that the enduring music hub was headed in a different direction.
Although the Sunset location shut its doors over a decade ago, the storefront is still there to this day – like a ghost of Hollywood’s past. The city never replaced the iconic music fixture with anything to match what we had lost. But, people can take comfort that for now, the spirit of the store remains.
In 2015, the music scene on the Strip took another big hit when the House of Blues announced it was closing down. This time, a big hotel claimed the property.
In 2018, when news broke that the legendary Viper Room had been sold and was possibly closing, the idea of another landmark being wiped out for a hotel or luxury apartments, stirred up a profound sadness about the way that the city was changing.
Overall, the city’s collective losses make the recent news of Amoeba Music shutting its doors that much more disheartening for the people of Los Angeles.
Founded in 1990, the world’s largest independent record store chain had survived the fall of music stores around the world. Now, Amoeba Music is saying goodbye to its famed Los Angeles location.
While it’s not on the Sunset Strip per se, the property at 6400 Sunset Boulevard stands as one of Hollywood’s most noticeable music landmarks. Thanks to its selection of vinyl, videos, CDs, and live shows, the legendary indie record shop still brings in fans from all over the world.
The store opened in 2001 and was sold in 2015. Sadly, L.A. City Council just voted to approve a 26-story tower that will be replacing it. Although Amoeba isn’t technically closing down, it is relocating. Exactly where the store is moving, is still yet to be determined.
In Los Angeles, every time a landmark falls, it’s as if a piece of history falls with it. Every city gets its share of this, but these places in L.A. that still exist, the ones that remain untouched as they embody a different era, are as crucial to the city as the people who inhabit it.
From the Sunset Strip to Laurel Canyon, the streets of L.A. hold secrets you won’t see in the movies. New buildings might go up, but, as the people will tell you, the spirit of the city can never be torn down.