Music, music, music. If you aren’t in LA for film, music is the other great altar that people from all all over the world fling themselves upon in the hopes of being discovered.
New York used to be it when it came to music in the US. But then Giuliani cleaned up the streets and swept all the note lovers out west. LA is the music hub of America, and everyone plays LA.
Everyone from Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Jay-Z level artists, to guys with guitars just doing a room can be found tuning up, testing sound and belting it out into a microphone every night of the week all over the City of Angels.
There’s a lot of bands that you never heard of who make a fine living touring and playing gigs. The internet means it’s even easier to gather your fans into one page and tour around. And considering that pretty much anyone can be on iTunes (and definitely on myspace) fans can be listening to your songs and wearing your merchandise t-shirts they bought at the gig you played in their one horse town.
But what if you are the band who literally just arrived? Four people getting off a plane from who knows where and trying to make it in LA? That’s a tough start. You got to find a rehearsal space, get some buzz, get some gigs, keep writing new songs. And all the while you have to eat and pay the rent on the one bedroom in Hollywood that you all share.
So it didn’t surprise me at all one night when I was sitting on the patio of a restaurant and glanced across the road to see musical whores.
At least, that’s what it looked like.
Four young guys, all dressed up in their gear, carrying guitar cases and a tambourine just loitering about and scanning the windows of every car that came by.
And people were slowing down to scope them out. It reminded me of the back streets of Sydney, the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, any alley way with a window in Amsterdam.
These musicians were whoring themselves out. But to who?
Wait! It totally makes sense. If you’re cooped up at home, married with kids, your stereo stopped being yours a long time ago. Gone are the days where you could rock out to Aerosmith, Rage Against the Machine, The Smiths and just hang out. Nowadays that Sonos system you dropped $2000 on just plays Top 20, Ryan Seacrest endorsed, “nice songs, sung by nice people, nicely,” and rappers with names that are spelled some way you can’t get your head around with at least one $ sign in it.
You need to cut out for a little rock out.
And that’s where the Musical Whores come in. Just cruise on up, roll down the window. And let the negotiations begin.
Lead SInger: Hey there, you looking to hear something?
Driver: How much?
Lead Singer: Depends what you want… $20 for a song, $50 for three, and $100 if you want a whole album.
Driver: You guys do rock?
The Band laugh amongst themselves.
Lead Singer: If you want a little Gangnam Style, K-Town is that way. This is Hollywood man.
Guitarist: (zipping open guitar case) See that? That’s an ’83 Telecaster. Cherry.
Bassist: Fender P-Bass backing that up.
Driver: You mean like…
Bassist: …like John Paul Jones had for Led Zep. You want to feel this one in your eardrums?
Lead Singer: Of course he does. What do you need papi? A quick single? We’re doing a special on EPs.
Then the driver sees the drummer clutching his tambourine.
Driver: Hang on?! What the hell is this? I need some rock. Not some bullshit Partridge Family tease.
Drummer: Calm down John. I got a whole kit set up in the back alley, it’s really close by. We can go all go there right now.
Driver: Out in the open?
Lead Singer: It’s LA baby, permanent sunshine. C’mon, we’ll do a special performance just for you.
There’s a moment of indecision, the Driver takes a few looks around.
Drummer: I’ll let you hold the drumsticks.
The Band climb into the car and the lead singer takes the front seat. Of course.
Lead Singer: By the way, no photos, no autographs and no singing from you. I only duet with regulars. Got it?
Driver: Got it.
Lead Singer: Let’s rock.
Now I could be wrong and maybe the scene that I saw was just a band getting a ride to a gig. But I’m pretty sure I’m on to something here.
I mean, how did Cheap Trick get their name?