Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham like most drummers, was a maverick figure who was almost impossible to contain whether through the visceral energy that he would let off whilst on stage, or the antics he would involve himself in once the show was over.
Hollywood hotel Chateau Marmont, which is located on Sunset Boulevard, first opened its doors in 1929 and it quickly became a historic place in rock and roll history. The location has seen some remarkable shenanigans occur between its four walls, with John Bonham being one of the main culprits.
The hotel has also been immortalised in song over the years due to its legendary status with the Grateful Dead’s ‘West L.A. Fadeaway’ which featured on their album In the Dark. Lana Del Rey referenced the building on her 2011 single ‘Off to the Races’ and Father John Misty’s ‘Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)’ as well as Angus & Julia Stone’s single ‘Chateau’ which featured on Snow. In 2017, Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales collaborated on a concept album of music inspired by the hotel, named Room 29 after one of the rooms with a piano.
Bonham though, it has to be said, arguably created the most notorious event in the history of the iconic hotel. Legend has it Bonham rode a Harley Davidson right through the lobby of the hotel in an insane stunt he would repeat on a further two occasions while staying at the Continental Hyatt House Hotel and the Andaz West Hollywood.
Whilst Bonham was performing his trademark stunt, Robert Plant allegedly shouted: “I am a golden god!” from one of the hotel’s balconies which would be a scene repeated by character Russell Hammond in Almost Famous. The 2000 film was based on the hedonistic exploits of 1970s rock legends such as Led Zeppelin and the scene showcasing an inebriated rockstar rides a motorcycle through a hotel hallway that was based on Zeppelin’s famous stay at the Chateau Marmont.
Bonham completely destroyed the hotel lobby’s carpet—which they kept in the state he had left it in to mark his legacy. However, when the hotel was purchased by Andre Balazs in 1990, the first thing he would do was replace the Bonham tire marks.
According to their former tour manager Richard Cole in the documentary Sunset Strip, when a hotel employee told them how envious he was that they could smash the rooms up, they told him to pick a room of his choice, vent his frustrations to his heart’s content which they would add to their bill and let the hotel worker live out their rockstar fantasy.