Sunset Boulevard is virtually synonymous with music in Los Angeles, and is mentioned in hundreds of songs by artists — Steely Dan, Tupac Shakur, Donna Summer, Grant Lee Buffalo, to name but a few.
Given the proper guidance, it’s possible to glide westbound along Sunset’s 22 miles from downtown Los Angeles to the beach without once using your blinker and cruise past musical sites that have helped define pop culture, from the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones to punk rock and hip-hop.
- Follow this map of Sunset Boulevard's musical memories
- Sunset Boulevard's key musical moments from 1924 to now
- Music mogul Lou Adler: The Sunset Strip's musical commander in chief
- These days Echo Park draws more hipster foot traffic than the Sunset Strip
Attempting to quantify the volume of music stories that have transpired across the 22 miles of Sunset Boulevard is a fool’s game. But a few well-arranged snapshots from the thoroughfare’s recording studios, venues, record labels and shops across the decades can capture a range of tastes, genres and attitudes.
The Rolling Stones recorded “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” at RCA Studios on Sunset. Prince recorded “Purple Rain” a few blocks down and across the street at Sunset Sound.
The Beach Boys recorded much of “Pet Sounds” on Sunset. The list goes on: Linda Ronstadt, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, k.d. lang and more recorded key records along its path.
The narrative tributaries angle off at every intersection, carrying stories about wild studio sessions and wilder nights chucking TV sets out of hotel windows, of epiphanies and overdoses and record label wars.
Barney Hoskyns, author of “Waiting for the Sun: A Rock & Roll History of Los Angeles,” calls the boulevard “the story of a journey, historically and geographically. A kind of river of history.”