Danny King
Danny King
In February 1970, the Doors released the album "Morrison Hotel." The cover featured lead singer Jim Morrison and his three bandmates impassively staring out of the lobby window of a grungy and since demolished downtown Los Angeles hotel of the same name. Rooms started at $2.50 a night


Almost a half-century later and about seven miles up the Hollywood Freeway, the W Hollywood has added an on-site recording studio that the luxury-lifestyle brand, now owned by Marriott International, says provides "a perfect environment for professional musicians to record while on the road, while also being available for hotel guests that want a taste of the limelight."

The hotel charges about $1,300 a day for the Sound Suite, depending on availability.

Which leads one to question whether the latest attempt by the hotel industry to lure more guests by co-opting the rock 'n' roll lifestyle is inflated. Or is it merely a case of inflation?

Leave it to the world's largest hotel company to make the broadest effort to tout its rebel credentials. Marriott debuted the W's Sound Suite concept in Bali last year; it worked with Lady Gaga collaborator DJ White Shadow to make sure the suite's mixing equipment, vocal booth and lounge area were done right.

North America's first Sound Suite opened at the W Seattle in April, while Europe's first debuted at the W Barcelona in June, the same month as the Hollywood version.

Long steeped in the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, Hard Rock International has also stepped up its efforts to appeal to guests' inner rock star. The chain's two-dozen hotel properties already boasted a Sound of Your Stay music-amenity program that allowed guests to check out Fender Stratocaster guitars from the front desk, while its Bali property included an on-site recording studio called the Boom Box (what is it about Bali and recording studios?).

This spring, though, Hard Rock began a promotion it's calling Wax, which enables guests to check out high-end Crosley Radio turntables from the front desk and bring them up to their rooms for some vinyl listening, skips and pops not included.

Not to be outdone, the Ace Hotel Los Angeles recently began featuring a program called Studio A; guests can check out mics, effects pedals and synthesizers made by high-end brands like Apogee and Moog in order to create their own in-room recording sessions.

The Eden Rock St. Barths also stays true to that locale's posh-rock pedigree by offering a recording suite with a 600-square-foot main studio and a 360-square-foot control room. Drums, guitars, amps and pianos are included.

The Sanctum Hotel Group and Karma Group announced last year that they would build a group of "authentic rock 'n' roll-styled and -oriented hotels," with London's Sanctum SoHo to be rebranded and earmarked as an early example of the effort.

Finally, the Virgin Hotel Nashville, which breaks ground this year, will have its own recording studio befitting of the host city's "Music City" moniker when the property debuts in 2019.

Mixing rock and room service is nothing new, of course. In 1952, Wisconsin's Holiday Music Hotel opened featuring its own radio station, while all of its rooms were wired enough to enable in-room recordings. That property is located in Sturgeon Bay, about 150 miles north of Milwaukee (correctly pronounced Mil-Wah-KAY, which is Algonquin for "the good land," as Alice Cooper taught us all in "Wayne's World").

Wisconsin also boasts the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, which opened in 1968 as the Lake Geneva Playboy Club-Hotel.

That resort's on-site recording studio, open from 1978 to 1995, hosted artists such as John Mellencamp, Cheap Trick and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

More recently, the Setai Miami Beach opened in 2004. It features a music studio designed by recording artist Lenny Kravitz.

One doesn't require a recording studio to convey the rock 'n' roll point of view, however. One of the more inspired music-themed efforts, or at least one I experienced first hand, was the Hotel ZaZa in Houston.

Granted, Houston doesn't have the rock 'n' roll pedigree of, say, New York, London, Los Angeles or Detroit. Its biggest claim to rock immortality might be the 1968 soul single "Tighten Up," in which Archie Bell & the Drells proudly proclaim that they're from Houston, where "we dance just as good as we walk."

But the city is home to the ZaZa's 2,160-square-foot Rock Star Suite. With views of the Houston skyline in the distance, decadent guests (and far less decadent, hosted families such as ours) can enjoy everything from velvet couches with leopard-print pillows to wall-mounted album covers from artists such as the Beatles, the Eurythmics and Bryan Adams to dozens of prints of luminaries such as Mick Jagger and Shakira.

The suite's "office" includes a Flying V guitar hung on the wall, while a Rolling Stones-inspired lips-themed piece of wall art was, the hotel reps implied, not exactly suitable for children.

Of course, the music-hotel relationship hasn't always been so chummy. In 1967, the Who's drummer Keith Moon accidentally but notoriously plunged a Lincoln Continental (no, it wasn't even his) into the swimming pool of a Holiday Inn in Flint, Mich.

Far darker still is New York's Hotel Chelsea's place in rock history. There, in 1978, ex-Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious may or may not have stabbed girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death (Vicious died the following year from an overdose while on bail). It doesn't get much more punk rock than that.

To be sure, the partnership could also be quite quaint. During the Beatles first U.S. tour in 1964, the group reportedly tried to fish out of the windows of Seattle's Edgewater Hotel. And five years later, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were all ready to make nice by recording their anti-war anthem "Give Peace a Chance" from their hotel room in Montreal's Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. (The hotel is updating its John Lennon and Yoko Ono Suite to include late-'60s furnishings and a virtual reality-type experience featuring interviews with people who were at the event.)

By the end of the following decade, though, Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh was regularly bringing chainsaws to hotels in order to create adjoining suites.

Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles (or what is now technically West Hollywood), the Continental Hyatt House (more affectionately known as the "Riot House") became infamous for antics such as Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham riding his Harley-Davidson down hallways and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards dropping televisions out of 10th floor windows. Heck, an interview scene from "This Is Spinal Tap" was filmed on the hotel's rooftop.

Go to what's since been rebranded as the Andaz West Hollywood, though, and those scars appear to have healed.

Which brings us back to that W Hollywood Sound Suite. In addition to offering its recording wares, the hotel provides guests with a so-called "Rider Menu" of food and beverage items whose names reference pop music tunes performed by iconic musicians such as Ray Charles, Neil Young and Madonna.

For example, guests can order the "Ring of Fire" for two, consisting of spiced and salted cashews, pretzels and sweet-potato chips and four microbrewed beers. Selling for a cool $47, the concoction is clearly an appropriate tribute to a man named Cash.

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