Whisky a Go Go
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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 and a short-skirted female DJ spinning records between sets from a suspended cage at the right of the stage. When, in July 1965, the 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 often in conflict with 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.
The Whisky played an important role in many musical careers, especially for bands based in Southern California. The Byrds, Alice Cooper, 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 residency 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 In Person at the Whiskey a Go Go 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. Chicago Transit Authority (later Chicago) was also a house band until discovered by Jimi Hendrix and brought on tour in 1968. 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.
Arthur Lee of Love immortalized the Whisky in the song Maybe the people would be the times or Between Clark and Hilldale. "Here they always play my songs," he would sing on the side two opener of Forever Changes. The Whisky was located on the strip between the streets Clark and Hilldale
In the mid-1970s, The Whisky was the home of The Cycle Sluts, a cabaret show. However, Kim Fowley was able to persuade the management to return the club to rock music. On Thanksgiving Day, 1976, two Fowley-managed bands, Venus & The Razorblades and The Quick, began a four-night stand. Thanks to the club being filled, the Whisky continued on as a rock 'n' roll club.
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, Quiet Riot, 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. A few sets of tables and chairs remain in the upstairs area, but these are often roped off as a "VIP" section, reserved for special guests of the bands, record executives, etc. 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, The Melvins, and 7 Year Bitch.