Thanks to brother Bryan for tipping me to a book that, amazingly, has only been written in the last couple years: Rock ‘n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip. What took so long? Sadly, most of us music fanatics who live on this side of the Mississippi have never had the opportunity to see these larger-than-life art pieces that announced the arrival of the “important” pop albums of the day. Author, Robert Landau, points out these billboards (1) were all hand painted – no digital printing in those days – and (2) remained on display for only a month or so before these panels would be whitewashed and painted over. Because, you know, it’s only popular music and nobody with any serious money would be interested in purchasing these one-off creations.
Collectors Weekly‘s March 10, 2015 edition features a very entertaining and informative interview in which we learn that Landau’s first billboard photograph, incredibly, was of The Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road cover — shortly before the removal of Paul’s head, which would take place when the “Paul is Dead” hysteria was at its peak. Shrewdly, Capitol Records decided to leave the bassist beheaded. Sales, unsurprisingly, did not suffer. The vandal with the hacksaw who held the only remaining piece of that billboard — Robert Quinn – finally surfaced in 2012 to claim a signed hardback copy of Landau’s book.
Incredibly, no songs appear to have been written about those beloved Sunset Strip billboards – although Brian Auger and Trinity did release a groovy little organ number that I can only guess was inspired by a cruise down Los Angeles’ most famous boulevard:
Brian Auger & Trinity “Bumpin’ on Sunset” 1969
“Bumpin’ on Sunset” – a Wes Montgomery cover – served as the B-side of “What You Gonna Do?” in the UK, US & Spain — except in the Netherlands, curiously, where it triumphed as the A-side, paired instead with Auger and the boys’ take on Lennon & McCartney’s “A Day in the Life.”
Note the use of the “Future Shock” typeface for the cover of their 1969 long-player, Definitely What!, on which you will also find “Bumpin’ on Sunset.”