Ever since the Beach Boys started singing about surfing and California, the rest of the world has had a fascination with “the golden coast.” Many bands have followed in the wake of Brian Wilson and his bandmates. Here’s an eclectic top ten of some of the best rockers to emerge from the SoCal area over the years, from legends like The Doors, to newer bands like Switchfoot - enjoy and add your own in the comments!
Guns N’ Roses
With the release of Appetite For Destruction Guns N’ Roses personified all that the mid eighties rock scene in Los Angeles was all about. The album is raw and dirty while still having some of the best melodies ever in the genre. Slash is, as you all know a Les Paul man all the way. In 2010 the Gibson Custom Shop released the Slash Appetite for Destruction Les Paul , which is an exact replica of the guitar Slash used during the recording of Appetite. For those of us unable to fork out the big bucks for the Appetite Les Paul, there’s the Slash Signature Rosso Corsa Les Paul , which feature Slash Signature® humbuckers which are based on the Gibsn PAF humbuckers from the late fifties. Check out Slash in action back in 1992:
How could you do a list of SoCal rock bands and ignore Van Halen? When Eddie Van Halen along with brother Alex, Michael Anthony, and David Lee Roth released their first album in 1978 it completely changed rock music. Not since the height of Jimi Hendrix’ career a whole decade earlier had anyone pushed the limits of what you could do with an electric guitar. After hearing “Eruption” every budding guitarist on the planet wanted to learn Eddie Van Halen’s tapping technique.
Mötley Crüe Just like Guns n’ Roses, Mötley Crüe got their start in the clubs on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Crüe made it big a few years before GN’R and sort of paved the wave for the genre. Mötley Crüe guitarist Mick Mars told Guitar World that he used a ’72 Les Paul Custom for most of the recording of the albums Shout at the Devil and Theatre of Pain: “That was all my black ’72 Les Paul Custom guitar. I bought it for 400 bucks and sold it years later for 25 grand. That was a good investment!”
Stone Temple Pilots
They've had their ups and downs, but there's no question that Stone Temple Pilots, along with Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains, were at the head of what was referred to as grunge rock in the early nineties. Having since turned in to a straight-ahead rock act, STP enjoyed three successful albums in the nineties. Although later releases did not do as well as their first three, the band has released six studio albums to date, and recently parted ways with singer Scott Weiland. Guitarist Dean DeLeo is often seen playing Gibson Les Paul guitars. In an interview with MusicRadar he talked about one of his favorite Les Pauls: "Yeah the black Les Paul has some interesting wiring to it. I hope that Gibson will one day re-create this guitar, I'm kind of talking to them about putting this guitar on the market. It really is very special. You know when you plug in a wah-wah pedal and you find that really sweet spot to solo with? Well, when you pop the tone knob on this, it allows you to get that wah thing." Check out an awesome solo from DeLeo on his black Les Paul:
Rage Against The Machine
When Rage Against The Machine arrived on the scene with their self-titled debut in 1992, they paved the way for the rap-rock genre. More importantly, guitarist Tom Morello changed the way a whole generation of guitarists looked at the instrument. Not since the first Van Halen album had someone challenged the boundaries of what you can do on a guitar. You can instantly spot Tom Morello's playing, whether it's with Rage, his solo project The Nightwatchman, or playing with Bruce Springsteen. Morello has made it his trademark to use pitch shifters and Whammy effects, making the guitar sound like something from outer space.
Jane’s Addiction was basically the antidote to bands like Guns n’ Roses and Motley Crue. Their moody alternative rock took over MTV in the early nineties with songs like “Stop!” and “Been Caught Stealing.” A few years back, Navarro designed an acoustic guitar together with Epiphone - The Dave Navarro Signature . Navarro told Gibson.com that the design on the pickguard is his homage to the Gibson Hummingbird: “I decided to go with my version of that, which is a tipping of the hat to the Hummingbird history with a goth sensibility to it. So you have the crows and the trees as opposed to the flowers and the birds.”
Jim Morrison and his bandmates in The Doors paved the way for rock bands from Los Angeles. Formed in 1965, the band gained success with “Light My Fire” from their self-titled debut in 1967. During a hectic period of only 4 years, the band released no less than six albums, culminating with L.A. Woman, which was released only three months before Morrison’s death in 1971.
San Diego rockers P.O.D. achieved worldwide success with their 2001 album Satellite. But after the initial success guitarist Marcos Curiel quit, and the band slowly dropped off the radar. Since 2006 Curiel is back and the band has had quite some success in the past year with their latest album Murdered Love, and the single "Beautiful." An interesting fact about Curiel is that he apparently used a '57 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop for part of the recording of Satellite that had previously been used by John Lennon, according to an interview with Guitar Center.
When San Diego rockers Switchfoot aren't touring you can be sure they're out surfing by one of San Diego's beautiful beaches, just like the boys in P.O.D.. That's just what you do when you live in Southern California. Guitarist Drew Shirley's guitar collection includes a 2004 Les Paul Junior and a Goldtop, among various other Les Paul models.
For some reason Weezer feels more like an East Coast band to me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but maybe it has to do with singer Rivers Cuomo’s much talked about studies at Harvard University. What’s clear though, is that Weezer is very much a California band, having formed in Los Angeles back in 1992. Weezer is the kind of band whose albums have a tendency to grow on you years after they are released, and perhaps that is why albums like Weezer, and Pinkerton still sound so fresh and relevant to me.