Hollywood's famous disco, the "Whisky a Go Go" opened on this day in history. Can you name the year and the opening act? Here's a hint…he was made famous by a "Secret" song.
RISMEDIA, Jan. 11, 2007-Today in history, the Whisky a Go Go nightclub on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood opened on Jan. 11, 1964 at the site of an old bank building that had been remodeled into a short-lived club called the Party. Often misspelled as "Whiskey," the club has also been called the first real American discothèque.
Though the club was billed as a discothèque, meaning only recordings with no bands, the Whisky a Go Go opened with a live band led by Johnny Rivers of "Secret Agent Man" fame and many other classics, and a short-skirted female DJ spinning records between sets from a suspended cage at the right of the stage.
When the girl DJ danced during Rivers' set, the audience thought it was part of the act and the concept of Go-Go dancers in cages was born. Rivers rode the Whisky-born "go-go" craze to national fame with records recorded partly "live at the Whisky." The Miracles recorded the song "Going to a Go-Go" in 1966 (which was covered in 1982 by The Rolling Stones), and Whisky a Go Go franchises sprang up all over the country.
In 1966, the Whisky was one of the centers of the Sunset Strip police riots. The club was harassed repeatedly by the City of Los Angeles, which once ordered that the name be changed, claiming "whisky" was a bad influence. It was the "Whisk?" for a while.
Arguably, the rock and roll scene in Los Angeles was born when the Whisky started operation. From rock to punk to heavy metal, the club stood at the forefront of many musical trends.
The Whisky played an important role in many musical careers, especially for bands based in Southern California. The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and Love were regulars, and The Doors were the house band for a while — until the debut of the "Oedipal Section" of The End got them fired. Van Morrison's band Them had a two-week stint in June, 1966, with The Doors as the opening act.
On the last night they all jammed together on Gloria . Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention got their record contract based on a performance at the Whisky. Jimi Hendrix came by to jam when Sam & Dave headlined. Otis Redding recorded his album Live at the Whisky there in 1966. The Turtles performed there when their newest (and biggest-selling) single "Happy Together" was becoming a hit, only to lose their new bassist, Chip Douglas (who had arranged the song), to the Monkees; guitarist Michael Nesmith invited him to become their producer. (He returned to the Turtles a year later, to produce them.).Neil Diamond also played at the Whisky on occasion.
Many British performers made their first headlining performances in the area at the Whisky, including The Kinks, The Who, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Roxy Music and Oasis. The Whisky was a focus of the emerging New Wave and punk rock movements in the late 1970s, and frequently presented local acts as diverse as The Germs (which recorded its first album there), The Runaways, X, Mötley Crüe and Van Halen while playing host to early performances by the Ramones,The Dictators, The Misfits, Blondie, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, XTC and The Jam.
The Whisky fell on hard times once the first flush of punk rock lost steam, and closed its doors in 1982. It reopened in 1986 as a "four-wall", a venue that could be rented by promoters and bands. Although a few booths remain on the perimeter, the interior has mostly been transformed into a bare, seatless space where the audience is forced to stand throughout the performances. Against this new economic backdrop, a number of hard rock and metal bands, including Guns N' Roses and Metallica, rose to prominence in the 1980s.
During the early 1990s, the Whisky hosted a number of Seattle-based musicians who would later be dubbed "the godfathers of grunge," including Soundgarden, Nirvana, Mudhoney and The Melvins.