Sunset Boulevard’s evolution over the last century from a former cattle trail to a boulevard of melody has influenced American culture in countless ways. Below, a timeline of some the boulevard’s key musical moments.
Sunset Plaza, the first commercial development on the Sunset Strip, opens.
Early West Hollywood gay club Cafe Gala opens.
Club Seville, an early iteration of influential Sunset Strip club Ciro’s, opens. That spot is now the Comedy Store.
CBS Columbia Square opens in Hollywood. The complex will eventually house recording studios where artists including the Byrds, Barbra Streisand and Simon & Garfunkel will record.
Wallichs Music City, Hollywood’s biggest record store for the next 35 years, opens at the northwest corner of Sunset and Vine Street.
The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra featuring Frank Sinatra christens the newly built Hollywood Palladium.
The glamorous Hollywood club the Mocambo opens, where Sinatra makes his solo Los Angeles debut.
Songwriter Johnny Mercer co-founds Capitol Records above Wallichs Music City.
Specialty Records, which would become home to artists including Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Wynona Carr, moves from Venice to West Hollywood. (8508 Sunset Blvd.)
Influential rock ’n’ roll disc jockey Art Laboe begins broadcasting his radio show on KPOP from Scrivner’s Drive-In at 6607 Sunset Blvd. (now a Jack in the Box)
Composer Leonard Bernstein records the score for “On the Waterfront” at CBS Columbia Square studios.
The Hollywood Palladium begins the long-running “Latin Holidays” nights, which under the guidance of radio personality Chico Sesma brings superstars including Perez Prado to the venue.
Capitol Records relocates to its newly erected Capitol Records building on Vine.
Former Chicago recording engineer Bill Putnam, who invented artificial reverb while working in Chicago, opens United Recording at 6050 Sunset Blvd. The complex, which eventually included neighboring Western Recorders, has helped generate classic music by Marvin Gaye, the Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Herbie Hancock and others.
Work begins on the studio that will become Sunset Sound Recorders (6650 Sunset Blvd.). Built to record scores to Disney movies, the studios have helped bring to the public classic records by the Doors, Prince, Metallica, Linda Ronstadt, the Rolling Stones and dozens more.
Producer and songwriter Phil Spector, three years out of Fairfax High School, partners with music executive Lester Sill to open Philles Records at 6515 Sunset Blvd. The label will go on to release classics by the Ronettes, Crystals, the Righteous Brothers, Gene Pitney and Ike & Tina Turner.
Musician and businessman Herb Alpert and partner Jerry Moss form A&M Records at 8255 Sunset Blvd. They eventually relocate to the former Charlie Chaplin Studios (now the Jim Henson Co. lot) near the corner of Sunset and La Brea Avenue.
Dick Dale and the Beach Boys perform at the Palladium for the first annual Surfer’s Ball during the peak of the surf-music craze.
The UCLA Folk Festival commences the first of five events under the guidance of D.K. Wilgus. Among those who perform over the years include instrumental folk guitarist John Fahey, seminal country singer Rose Maddox and country blues singer Son House.
Johnny Rivers performs on the opening night of the Whisky a Go Go on the Strip.
Pop duo Jan & Dean release “Dead Man’s Curve,” which tells the story of a deadly crash on Sunset Boulevard.
RCA Studios opens at 6363 Sunset Blvd. Artists including Astrud Gilberto, Harry Nilsson and the Jefferson Airplane record here.
The Byrds debut at Ciro’s on the Strip.
The Rolling Stones record the final version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” at RCA Studios.
Mamas and the Papas audition for Lou Adler at Western Recorders. He signs them to Ode and releases “California Dreamin’.”
Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention debut at the Whisky a Go Go.
Otis Redding makes his debut at the Whisky.
The Beach Boys release “Pet Sounds,” recorded at Sunset locations including United Western Recorders, CBS Columbia Square and Sunset Sound.
Van Morrison’s early group Them performs a two-week residency at the Whisky with opening band the Doors.
The so-called Riot on Sunset Strip occurs when protesters clash with police over the closure of the popular hangout Pandora’s Box at Sunset and Crescent Heights.
Studio Instrument Rentals opens at 6465 Sunset Blvd. The company, which rents instruments and rehearsal space, is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Buffalo Springfield, which months earlier made its debut at the Whisky a Go Go, releases “For What It’s Worth,” a song inspired by the Riot on Sunset Strip.
The Grateful Dead starts recording its debut album at RCA Studios.
Sinatra records “My Way” at Western Recorders.
Singer Janis Joplin’s “Pearl” is released posthumously, recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders (6650 Sunset).
Carole King releases “Tapestry” on Lou Adler’s Ode Records, recorded at A&M at La Brea and Sunset.
Retailer Wayne Mitchell relocates his shop, the Guitar Center, to Sunset Boulevard. Formerly known as the Organ Center, the business explodes with the rise of rock music.
Tower Records opens at 8801 Sunset in West Hollywood.
Music entrepreneur David Geffen teams with Joni Mitchell and Neil Young’s manager Elliot Roberts to found Asylum Records.
Detroit label Motown Records announces its intention to move its headquarters to offices at 6255 Sunset Blvd.
Steely Dan performs a weeklong stint at the Whisky a Go Go.
The Roxy opens its doors with three nights with Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
Sly & the Family Stone and Bob Marley & the Wailers share a double bill at the Hollywood Palladium.
Van Halen becomes the house band at the rock club Gazzarri’s, where the quartet will continue to book extended residencies for the next three years.
Female punk band the Runaways make their debut at the Whisky a Go Go.
Jackson Browne releases “The Pretender,” recorded at Sunset Sound.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform a residency with Blondie at the Whisky a Go Go.
The Germs play at the Roxy and record “Sex Boy,” the B-side to the punk band’s first single.
Devo, Blondie, the Weirdos and the Avengers gig at the Hollywood Palladium.
Early L.A. punk band the Go-Go’s make their debut at the Whisky and eventually become the most commercially successful of Sunset’s first-wave punk bands.
Hard rock band Quiet Riot, featuring young hotshot guitarist Randy Rhodes, performs its first Whisky a Go Go gig.
Punk band Black Flag makes an early Sunset Strip appearance at Gazzarri’s.
The first Sunset Junction Street Fair occurs at the intersection of Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards.
David Geffen founds Geffen Records, which will go on to release albums by Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana and dozens more, at 9130 Sunset Blvd.
Prince finishes recording of “Controversy” at Sunset Sound.
SST Records label-mates Minutemen, Saccharine Trust, Meat Puppets and Overkill perform on a bill at the Whisky.
Red Hot Chili Peppers play an early Sunset Boulevard show at Club Lingerie.
Prince releases “Purple Rain,” recorded in part at Sunset Sound.
Guns N’ Roses take over the so-called “Hell House” behind 7508 Sunset Blvd., where the band will write most of its debut album, “Appetite for Destruction.”
Jane’s Addiction plays its first L.A. show (after a set at Safari Sam’s in Huntington Beach) at the Roxy.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers begin recording their breakthrough album, “Mother’s Milk,” at Ocean Way Studios (formerly United).
Budding rap label Delicious Vinyl (6607 Sunset) releases rapper Tone-Loc’s breakout album, “Loc-ed After Dark.” With production by future Beck and Beastie Boys collaborator the Dust Brothers (and session work from Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea), the album hits No. 1.
Investors including Johnny Depp and Chuck E. Weiss buy the Central (formerly the Melody Room) on the Sunset Strip and reopen it as the Viper Room.
Epitaph Records, home to punk band Bad Religion, relocates its offices to Silver Lake.
House of Blues opens its deliberately ramshackle music venue on the Sunset Strip (8430 Sunset Blvd.). It closed in 2015.
Venerated post-punk venue Club Lingerie, where bands including Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana performed, closes.
Fiona Apple issues her debut album, “Tidal,” recorded in part at Ocean Way.
System of a Down performs at the Whisky. The opening band, Xero, would eventually become Linkin Park.
Label consolidation forces thousands of layoffs amid the closure of key Sunset label offices of Geffen, A&M and Motown.
Amoeba Music opens its first Southern California location (after two in the San Francisco Bay Area).
Elliott Smith and Rilo Kiley play the recently opened Echo.
Feb. 3, 2003
Producer Phil Spector meets cocktail waitress Lana Clarkson at the House of Blues. Hours later she is dead. Eventually Spector is convicted.
The first FYF Festival debuts at the Echo with a lineup that includes post-punk bands the Mae Shi, Wires on Fire and Sabretooth Tiger.
Tower Records closes its flagship store after declaring bankruptcy.
Amy Winehouse makes her Los Angeles debut at the Roxy.
The Hollywood Palladium reopens with headliner Jay-Z after a multimillion-dollar renovation by its new owner, Live Nation.
Elmer Valentine, who opened the Whisky a Go Go and the Roxy, dies at 85.
The founders of Hydra Head Records open record store and metal-scene hub Vacation Vinyl in Silver Lake.
The influential dance club A Club Called Rhonda relocates from Guatelinda Nightclub in East Hollywood to longtime flamenco club El Cid. Two years later the promoters move to the newly renovated Los Globos, also on Sunset.
July 10, 2012
Frank Ocean releases “Channel Orange,” recorded primarily at EastWest (formerly Cello, Ocean Way, and Western).
Sources: Los Angeles Times archives; “Riot on Sunset Strip” (Dominic Priore); “Waiting for the Sun” (Barney Hoskyns); Discogs.com; “We Got the Neutron Bomb” (Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen); “The Wrecking Crew” (Kent Hartman); “Under the Big Black Sun” (John Doe with Tom DeSavia and friends); “The Rolling Stones: All the Songs (Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon); “Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways (Evelyn McDonnell); “Mexican American Mojo (Anthony Macias); “Sunset Boulevard: Cruising the Heart of Los Angeles” (Amy Dawes); “Where the Action Is!” (Andrew Sandoval, liner notes).
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