Rock It: A music history lesson in LA

Posted on November 13, 2013


Rock It: A music history lesson in LA

By Rachael Mattice

Los Angeles takes on many definitions, depending on your background and interests.

Although I have lived there and visited several of the landmarks before, a recent vacation to LA unearthed more iconic and autobiographical spots that have become nationally known with Guns N’ Roses, Van Halen and any other rock star lucky enough to make it to the Golden Coast of Southern California.

From the perspective of a rock-loving journalist, LA beamed in historical light with landmarks that witnessed the beginnings of many A-list heavy metal musicians, including Indiana rockers David Lee Roth, Izzy Stradlin and Axl Rose.

The first pit stop in my journey unintentionally uncovered priceless items many gear heads would drool over. Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard collects and preserves a significant number of vehicles of all makes, models and purposes of high stature and rarity.

For a limited time, the museum opened its “vault” to the public. Along with the a limo used to usher Saddam Hussein, David Lee Roth’s 1951 custom four-door Mercury convertible extensively modified to be featured in Van Halen’s “Panama” and “California Girls” video shone in front of me.

Right next to that red gem was the 1932 Ford Hi-Boy Phaeton used in Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” video. One doesn’t have to be a car fanatic, but merely a music appreciator, to absorb a moment like that from one of Indiana’s biggest success stories.

Hours later, I did lunch at Canter’s Deli, a Jewish-style delicatessen in the Fairfax district that opened in 1931. It became a hangout for entertainers for its location a half-mile away from the Sunset Strip and its 24 hours-a-day availability.

Framed on the wall were images of a young GNR and articles about the release of “Appetite for Destruction.” Photographed in Canter’s booths, the bar in the restaurant, called the Kibitz room, housed launch parties for plenty of musicians, including now-owner Marc Canter’s high school friend Slash.

One cannot cruise LA without passing through Canter’s for a late night nosh.

A half-mile away on Sunset, our Indiana musicians first made noise in clubs such as The Key Club, The Troubadour, The Roxy, the Viper Room and Whisky A Go Go. Performing gigs in these famous rock venues, Van Halen received its first big break in Gazzarri’s, another Sunset Strip club that closed in 1996.

The Rainbow Bar and Grill on the same street was heavily frequented by rock connoisseurs, including regular Lemmy Kilmister, but was also given landmark status after GNR used it in videos for “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry.”

Music history at its finest is congregated in the City of Angels, but still has roots and inspiration in our Hoosier State. Tell me your favorite rock memory from LA.

Mattice is a producer and music journalist for the Journal & Courier. She can be reached at or on Twitter @RachaelM_JC.

Posted in: "Rock It" Column