My first memory of Los Angeles is December 11, 1986. I am a junior in high school. In the time-honored tradition, my dad and I have flown here from Ft. Lauderdale to “look at colleges” – specifically USC. My mom didn’t make the trip and I don’t remember why.
From far-off Florida, Hollywood is the center of my universe and the Sunset Strip is mile marker zero. I know for a fact that it was December 11 because when I tuned the rental car radio to KNAC 105.5, the radio station of record – the New York Times of metal, Tawn Mastery was playing “Livewire” in honor of Nikki Sixx’s birthday. For a girl with Motley Crue, Def Leppard, and Aerosmith on constant rotation, this is one of those moments when the clouds part and a singular light shines through accompanied by an angelic chorus. I am with my people – and my dad.
I don’t remember a heavenly light shining on the rented Lincoln as we drive down Sunset, but I do remember Dad pulling into Tower Records. We take pictures of Tower and the Whiskey, the Rainbow, and the Roxy. He buys me a copy of Kerrang! Magazine and I pick up a KNAC bumper sticker. (This bumper sticker would haunt me years later and result in a $200 ticket but that’s a story for another day.) I save the plastic, yellow bag with giant red block letters to take home to show my friends because we don’t have Tower in Florida; we have Specs and Peaches Records. (One of Marilyn Manson’s first jobs was working at the Peaches in Ft. Lauderdale. That’s before he ditched the Spooky Kids and spent most of his time hanging out in front of the Button South.)
Who cares? Why am I talking about this all these years later? Because today I saw Rock of Ages and – despite many not awesome things about the movie – there on the screen, in full Technicolor, was the Tower Records on Sunset in all its glory. (There are indeed some awesome things besides the recreated Tower – like Sebastian Bach from Skid Row and Extreme’s Nuno Bettancourt in the crowd scene at the end and Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx.)
It’s not a great movie, but those were great times. Axl Rose was still in a band with Slash, Eddie Van Halen didn’t play in a band with his son, Nikki Sixx was having a birthday and Tom Cruise was Maverick, not Stacee Jaxx.
I didn’t go to USC, but I did eventually make it LA. Unfortunately for me, I arrived one month before Nirvana’s Nevermind hit Tower’s shelves and everything changed.