These Are the Real Hotels That Inspired 6 Classic Songs
Pop history was made here.
Unlike the brand name-dropping rappers of today, when Sugarhill Gang gave a shout-out to their favorite hotels in Rapper's Delight, they didn't exactly get specific. "Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn" — well, those could be just about anywhere. Same goes for Holidae In, that early aughts club classic by Chingy (featuring Ludacris and Snoop Dogg).
Through the ages, though, other musicians have been considerate to namecheck certain hotels so that devoted, music-loving travelers might make a real-life pilgrimage. Here are some of our favorite songs about real hotels — most of which you can even still check into today.
This Rolling Stones number is shrouded in much legend — rumor has it that the lyrics are about Carly Simon — but the existence of the motel from which it takes its name is indisputable. The Memory Motel is a funky little motel and, as Mick sang, "It's on the ocean, I guess you know it well." Actually it's a little back from the ocean, on Montauk Highway, and the Stones didn't stay here on their Montauk visit, preferring to crash at Andy Warhol's nearby pad instead. The bar here is particularly popular on summer weekends, but even if you have to wait for a drink, bed is just a stumble away.
2Chelsea Hotel No. 2
Few hotels can claim such rock and roll cred as the Hotel Chelsea, home over the years to such 20th-century icons as Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, and Leonard Cohen who wrote Chelsea Hotel No. 2 about his encounter there with fellow resident Janis Joplin. "That was New York," Cohen wrote with a twinge of cynicism. "We were runnin' for the money and the flesh." Predictably, the glory days of the Chelsea are far behind it, devoured by Manhattan's real estate business. Today, wrangling with long-term residents aside, a development company plans to transform it into a luxury hotel, due to open in 2017.
This infectious swing jazz standard, first recorded by Glen Miller in 1940, takes its title from the phone number for Hotel Pennsylvania — the longest-running number in New York City. While the hotel is somewhat diminished since the midcentury days when it was the world's biggest hotel and considered the height of luxury, you can still dial PE6-5000 (preceded by the more modern 212 area code) and give them a bell.
4There's a Small Hotel
Rodgers and Hart's There's a Small Hotel has been recorded by many popular figures over the years, perhaps most memorably by Ella Fitzgerald, who sounds quite enticing when she sings "I'd like to get away, Junior/Somewhere alone with you/It could be oh, so gay, Junior." The song gets quite specific about this hotel, mentioning the curtains and prints on the wall, but it's the mention of the wishing well that leads to the conclusion it's about Santa Barbara's Montecito Inn, which was built by Charlie Chaplin in the 1920s and visited by many Hollywood stars of the day. The spruced-up hotel is still open, but alas the wishing well is no more.
According to interviews with The White Stripes, Hotel Yorba was inspired by a Detroit hotel of the same name, about which a young Jack White once heard a (false) rumor saying that the Beatles had once stayed there. The song was recorded in the hotel, room 206 to be exact, but it has since been turned into subsidized housing.
6Always Crashing in the Same Car
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. David Bowie produced some of his best work while living in Berlin in the 1970s, but he also produced a number of hair-raising moments. This song is said to be about him ramming his dealer's car (whom he suspected of having ripped him off), then doing circles in his Berlin hotel parking lot. Like much about Bowie, however, the name of the hotel remains a mystery.
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