What would our rock royalty do without hotels to smash up? Lorne Jackson meets an author who has followed the trail of decadence.
When most people book into a hotel, they feel the need to check a few basic amenities.
Are the pillows nice and fluffy? Is room service available? Does the window afford a panoramic view of golden beaches and twinkling coastline?
However, when a rock star checks in for the night, he has much more serious considerations to mull over.
Is his room sufficiently spacious to stack 20 giggling blonde groupies, end-to-end?
Is the flushing mechanism in the toilet efficient enough to get rid of a kilo of cocaine if ten burly police officers explode through the door?
And, most important of all, is there a TV to heft through the window, without a moment’s notice?
Rock stars experience hotels in much the same way as toddlers take pleasure from ball ponds.
In other words, they romp, stomp and riot.
Rock fan, Greg Simmons, knows this only too well.
That’s why, when he split up with his long-term girlfriend, he decided to take the rock route to inner peace and harmony.
He checked into the Chateau Marmont, one of the most famous hotels on the planet.
It was a clever move – and one that paid off.
As he was relaxing in the hotel’s restaurant, he immediately spotted movie star, Scarlett Johansson.
At another table was Flea, the bass guitarist from rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers.
None of this should have been surprising. The Marmont is famous for its five star luxury – and five star guests.
Rock royalty have always adored the swanky joint.
It was in this particular LA hotel that Led Zeppelin drove their Harley Davidson motorbikes into the lobby.
The Doors singer, Jim Morrison, also dangled precariously from a window.
In more recent times, Lily Allen took up temporary residence. The hotel was her US base when she wrote the song F**k You.
The ambience must be inspiring, because Greg also cranked up the creativity while staying there.
It was here that the 32-year-old Brummie decided to write a travel guide focusing on rock music and madcap behaviour.
The completed volume – Rock & Roll Hotels – Sex, Drugs, Fluffy Pillows – is out now.
“I initially went to the Chateau Marmont because I’d started this novel, which was a personal dispatch of woe,” says Greg, who lives in Great Barr.
“I’d come out of a long relationship, and we’d sold the house, and I was just sleepwalking my way through a nine to five job, which I was hating. I was a copy editor, and it really was no fun at all.
“Then, in a moment of clarity, I decided I had to get away. I’ve always been an avid reader of rock biographies, and I knew the importance of hotels in so many rock and roll stories.
“So I said to myself: ‘That’s it. I’m heading to the Chateau Marmont.’”
When he arrived, it was everything he dreamed it would be.
“As soon as I got there I went to the hotel’s restaurant, and plonked myself down and ordered a beer.
“I was flanked by Scarlett Johansson on one side, and Flea from the Chilli Peppers on the other.
“At which point a stern head-waitress came over to me, and said: ‘Have you actually booked a table here?’
“I said: ‘Well, no. But I’m staying at the hotel. I just thought it would go hand in hand.’
“Apparently it doesn’t. But she let me sit there, though she told me that the next time I’d have to book well in advance.
“By that, she meant a couple of months.
“It was a bit embarrassing, but I still managed to get a good ogle of Scarlett. She just seemed bemused by my situation with the waitress. She certainly didn’t swoon over me in my ‘George’ shirt from Asda. But she looks even better in person, if that’s possible.”
This happened back in 2008. In the intervening years Greg has travelled the world for research purposes, staying in every hotel that has become part of the mythology of rock and roll.
And, before you ask, no, he hasn’t checked into any Travelodges or Blackpool B&Bs.
However, he has stayed at the Andaz West Hollywood, also known as the Riot House.
It was here that the Midlands’ mightiest rocker, Led Zeppelin front man, Robert Plant, yelled: “I am a Golden God!” from one of the balconies.
In the 70s, the Zep and their entourage held court in the hotel, taking over as many as six floors at a time. Television sets and bottles of Dom Perignon were lobbed from windows.
In total, Greg has covered more than 40 hotels. Most of them are in the States, though he has also included the UK, the European mainland and South America.
One of the grittiest stopovers was provided by the Hotel Chelsea in New York, where the late Sex Pistols bass player, Sid Vicious, murdered his girlfriend.
“Sid was in room 100,” says Greg. “But that room doesn’t exist anymore.
“After it happened, they renumbered the rooms, and shifted them around.
“That hotel is a real bohemian bolt hole. The sort of place you can go and really enjoy the exotic types.
“I didn’t see anyone famous there. But everyone looks the part. They’re more road-worn than Keith Richards and Lemmy put together.
“You get the idea that these people are the roadies from Motorhead. It’s quite foreboding from outside, and even inside it’s a little bit tacky.
“But it’s also the kind of place you go in and see a guy tapping away on a laptop, wearing shades. And he’s bound to be working on a novel or a poem.”
* Rock & Roll Hotels By Greg Simmons is published by Punk Publishing (£10.99) The book is launched in Waterstone’s, Birmingham New Street, today (Thursday) at 7pm.