If the Piano Could Talk…

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Chateau Marmont Hotel

Chateau Marmont on West Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard

Chateau Marmont is a celebrated West Hollywood hotel located, of course, just above Sunset Boulevard. It was built in 1930 and it’s past has given it the reputation as the place the glitterati went to misbehave. So many of the rich an famous have stayed or lived here… Jean Harlow had an affair with Clark Cable here… John Belushi overdosed here… James Dean leapt through a window…Jim Morrison fell off the roof…  John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) drove a Harley through the lobby.

Harry Cohn, head of Columbia pictures is said to have told his young stars, “If you must get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont”.

It features in various films, books, videos and songs, and this has all given the hotel legendary status. It’s simply the most notorious hotel in the world.

Room 29 – The album

Cover of Room 29 AlbumThis month former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, and pianist/composer Chilly Gonzales have collaborated on a new album which celebrates the scandalous history of the hotel. They’ve called the album Room 29.

But why Room 29? The answer it that this room (or more accurately suite) has a piano. A baby grand piano.

Cocker stayed at the hotel in 2012 whilst touring with Pulp. He checked into room 29 and confronted by the piano and knowing a bit about the history of the hotel, came up with the idea of writing a series of songs reliving the past events of this famed establishment. This song-cycle would use the piano as the link between the various events.

The album starts with stories about Mark Twain’s daughter Clara, and continues with songs about Jean Harlow, Los Angeles mobster Meyer Cohen, alias “Mickey the Haberdasher”, Howard Hughes and more.

The piano in room 29 is a nondescript baby grand, with no decal on the nameboard. No records detail who has actually played this instrument, or in fact how long it has been in room 29. But it has now gone down in history as the catalyst for a unique cycle of songs celebrating the world’s most rock’n’roll hotel.

Room 29 is released on the Deutsche Gramophone label; and Cocker and Gonzales are performing the album at London’s Barbican Centre (23-25 March), the Berlin Volksbühne (28-30 March), Paris (April/July) and selected summer festivals.

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