1. It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll (But I Like It): Sex, Drugs, and Rock ’n’ Roll Mayhem
2 . Roll Over Beethoven: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley,
and The Rolling Stones
3 . Kick Out the Jams: Concert Sites and Live Performance Locations
4 . The Song Remains the Same: Music, Film, and TV Recording Sites
5 . Sweet Home Chicago: Blues and Jazz Shrines
6 . Don’t Fear the Reaper: Homicides, Suicides, and a Bad Moon Rising
7 . Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: R.I.P.
8 . Can’t Buy Me Love: Rock ’n’ Roll Museums, Restaurants, Hotels,
and Other Places to Spend Your Cash
9 . B-Sides: Record Stores, Road Trip Music Suggestions, and Other Rock ’n’ Roll Miscellany
100 Classic Road Trip Songs
100 Rockin’ Road Trip Albums
My Top Live 25
30 Great North American Music Stores
On a drizzly May 1, 1975, the Rolling Stones created a bit of bedlam in Lower Manhattan. To announce the dates of their Tour of the Americas, they had scheduled a press conference at One Fifth Avenue. As reporters gathered inside the hotel to wait for the band, a commotion was noticed outside. A rumbling was heard coming down Fifth Avenue and lo and behold, it was the Rolling Stones on the back of a flatbed truck performing “Brown Sugar.” Stunning the lunchtime crowd, they ran through the song before tossing out leaflets to those on the street. On the sheets of paper were the tour dates. The flatbed then drove around the corner; the band jumped into waiting cars and was gone in a flash. The idea for the impromptu concert came from Stones drummer Charlie Watts, who’d read that jazz bands would sometimes promote their evening concerts with truck tours around the city.
I was in 8th grade at the time, 13 years old, and in the previous year or two had become a huge fan of the Rolling Stones. When I got home from school that day, I was glued to the news reports of the event. I knew exactly where that truck had pulled up and could not believe that the Stones, in the flesh, had actually performed within inches of people on the street. That night, my father told me he had gotten tickets through his company for us to see the Stones at Madison Square Garden and I began counting down the days until June 22nd. When I hear people who grew up in the 1960s talk about seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and how that changed their lives, well, that’s what May 1, 1975 was for me: a lightning bolt. The day I developed a serious emotional attachment to rock ’n’ roll.
My two favorite American creations are baseball and rock ’n’ roll, and since I’d already written a book about baseball it only seemed natural to pen one on rock ‘n’ roll. Because it was born here in America, with roots going back to Congo Square in New Orleans, there are many landmarks, shrines, and touchstones throughout North America and that’s what led me to approach rock ’n’ roll from a geographic angle. From the store where Elvis bought his first guitar to the site of Buddy Holly’s plane crash to the location of The Beatles first performance in America, the landscape is laced with hundreds of places relevant not just to rock ’n’ roll, but to rock’s building blocks as well. Sites related to jazz and the blues are just as important in a book like this to help form a foundational perspective, and so they are included, too.
Obviously, there are many sites in this book that involve a certain level of mayhem and excess. This is rock ’n’ roll, after all, and it goes with the territory. That said, something that struck me while writing this book is how different music would be today if the likes of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and so many other artists taken from the world so early in life were still here. Their early exits parallel those of other icons like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean in that they remain forever young, but it’s interesting to think about how music might have been altered had they not died. The thought of Gram Parsons joining the Rolling Stones onstage today, or a joint Hendrix/Joplin tour—so many intriguing possibilities struck down by drugs and/or bad luck. But again, that’s rock ’n’ roll.
The other day, my son and I were in the car listening to Delta blues legend Robert Johnson. Charlie, who at this writing is 13, snapped to attention when a song called “If I Had Possession over Judgment Day” started playing. “That’s ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’” he said excitedly, referring to a song off the current Bob Dylan album Modern Times. It struck me once again what a powerful force music is in our lives, and how our homegrown American art form gets passed down from generation to generation. The Robert Johnson song had been adapted over the years by Muddy Waters, Cream, and, most recently, Bob Dylan. Now, the musical roots from the Mississippi Delta had found their way to our driveway in Huntington Beach, California, and connected with yet another young rock ’n’ roll fan. (This experience also helps explain why I included a chapter on Blues and Jazz in this book. As Muddy Waters wrote and sang, “The blues had a baby and they named it rock and roll.”)
I hope you enjoy this collection of places and get a chance to go out and visit a bunch of them. Rock ’n’ roll combined with road trips is a timeless combination, after all.
To all of you who remember those pre-MTV days, when albums and radio ruled so much of our lives, I hope this book brings back a few memories. To the younger readers, who knows, maybe reading about all of these legends will inspire you to go start a band. And we can always use a few good new bands.
Huntington Beach, California