Purple, Possessed & Pervy: Rock's Top 10 Houses
John Lennon and Yoko Ono in a happy pose in front of their home (and future site of Lennon's assassination).
Celebrity homes will always be a source of fascination, offering a glimpse at the intimate, private side of those who live their lives in the public eye. And it's particularly interesting to note the impact of everyday surroundings on a person and their work, and how they in turn influence the space they inhabit. In other words, it's where they are allowed to act like regular people, although they usually don't.
Rather than put together a Cribs-like catalog of the most fabulous and outlandish displays of wealth in rock and roll, Rocks Off searched for the most bizarre, interesting, and historical properties, locations that have had a profound impact on the music, or offered an outward reflection of their musician inhabitants.
Ten of our favorites are listed below.
An aerial view of the property, prior to Prince's purplification.
10. Prince's Purple Reign: If you're not a big fan of purple, we'd advise against renting to Prince. Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer learned this lesson after leasing his $11.9 million 10-bedroom, 11-bath West Hollywood home to the singer back in 2004. Boozer then sued his $70,000-a-month tenant in 2006 for a laundry list of elaborate, unauthorized renovations to the property, which included painting purple stripes and his signature symbol on the exterior of the house, as well as the title of his then-upcoming album 3121 above the front entrance, a purple monogrammed carpet in the master bedroom, and installing additional plumbing and pipes in a downstairs bedroom "for water transfer to the beauty salon chairs."
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However, the lawsuit was dismissed a month later when Prince presented his landlord with a check for $1 million to restore the home to its previous condition. The Chicago Sun-Times recently reported that the two are now friends, but made no mention of any "shirts vs. blouses" action on the court or early-morning pancake breakfasts.
9. Le Pig Studios (Trent Reznor): The home at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, was the scene of one of the most horrific crimes in American history when on August 9, 1969, members of the Manson Family brutally murdered actress Sharon Tate, the eight-months-pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, and four friends unfortunate enough to be visiting that night.
Manson instructed his followers to, "Leave a sign...something witchy" at the location, and the word PIG was found scrawled across the front door, written with a towel soaked in Tate's blood. Hence "Le Pig Studio," the name assigned to the property by Trent Reznor. The Nine Inch Nails front man sought out the infamous location and transformed it into a studio, where he lived and recorded full-time during the Broken/Downward Spiral era of the early 1990s, thus eliminating any lingering doubt that he is one seriously twisted, fucked-up dude.
It ain't pretty, but it's definitely pink.
8. Big Pink (Bob Dylan & The Band): There should be little question as to how the West Saugerties, N.Y. got its name. The newly constructed salmon-sided home was first rented by the Hawks' Rick Danko, who went on to form The Band with Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel and Levon Helm following a 1966 tour as Bob Dylan's backup band (this is rumored to be how their name came to be, with Dylan referring to them simply as "The Band"). Dylan soon became a common fixture, using the spacious, studio-like basement to write and try out new material, and would go on to compose three songs and the album cover for The Band's highly acclaimed 1968 debut Music From Big Pink.
Former home of Aleister Crowley, Jimmy Page, and a ghostly severed head.
7. Boleskine House (Jimmy Page): The Boleskine House is an estate on the southeastern shore of Loch Ness in Scotland, and residence of famed author and occultist Aleister Crowley from 1899 -1913 . Once vilified by the press as "the wickedest man in the world" and denounced for his hedonistic lifestyle and libertine values, Crowley's reputation improved significantly over time.
Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page called Crowley one of the most misunderstood geniuses of the 20th century. Page purchased the property in the early 1970s, and filmed the fantasy sequence of the concert film The Song Remains the Same on the mountainside behind the house. He also believed the place to be haunted by a decapitated head, but was unable to say whose head it was.
Cash's Tennessee castle in its prime...
...and all that remains today.
6. The House of Cash (Johnny & June Carter Cash): George Strait's 2008 album Troubadour features a duet with Patty Loveless called "The House of Cash," with a line that goes "No one sleeps in Cash's bed, but the man in black and the bride he wed." The song is referencing an event that took place the prior year, when the Henderson, Tenn., home that Johnny and June shared for more than 35 years went down in flames, or perhaps, a ring of fire.
The lakeside property, featured prominently in the 2005 Academy Award-winning biopic Walk the Line, was purchased for $2.3 million in 2006 by the Bee Gees' Barry Gibb, whose intent was to restore the home to its former glory before moving in with his wife Linda. While it's widely believed the fire that engulfed the home on April 10, 2007, can be attributed to malfunctioning equipment used in the renovations, some like to think Johnny had a hand in it - one final closing act of rebellion from the spirit of The Man in Black.
5. The Dakota (John Lennon & Yoko Ono): Located on the northwest corner of 72nd St. and Central Park West on Manhattan's Upper West Side, The Dakota is best-known as the home of legendary Beatle John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono, and as the location where Lennon was murdered on Dec. 8, 1980. Lennon was returning home from the Record Plant Studio with Ono when he was shot by Mark David Chapman at the entrance of the building. Ono still owns several apartments in the Dakota, and honors the anniversary of her husband's death each year with a single lit candle placed in the window.
4. The Mansion (Rick Rubin): Renowned music producer Rick Rubin operates out of a 10-bedroom recording studio in Laurel Canyon, and the rumor is it's haunted. According to local lore, a man pushed his lover off of a balcony in 1918 and their spirits still wander the grounds today, despite the original structure burning down to the ground in 1950.
Various members of bands such as Slipknot, The Mars Volta, System of a Down, and Audioslave have all reported unusual phenomena over the years that range from from securely shut doors that are suddenly ajar, strange "orbs" hovering in dark rooms and appearing in photographs, to sensations so unsettling that the guests made it a point to avoid the bell tower and basement altogether. But whatever evil lurks within The Mansion's walls certainly has the uncanny ability to scare up some moneymakers, generating some of the most successful albums in recent years, most notably, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
However, according to Anthony Kiedis' autobiography, the only thing The Mansion seemed haunted by was a lot of horny women.
3. Villa Nellcôte (The Rolling Stones): Following a string of harrowing run-ins with British law enforcement, the Stones and a motley crew of fellow musicians, wives and girlfriends sought refuge in the south of France. Keith Richards rented a 19th-century 16-room mansion on the waterfront of Villefranche-sur-mer known as Villa Nellcôte in the summer of '71, which he filled with an ungodly amount of heroin and a collection of famous friends.
Somehow, despite regular entanglements with French police and the band members' often conflicting schedules of sobriety, the Stones managed to record the majority of Exile on Main Street, widely hailed as one of the best albums of all time at Nellcote. The band and their entourage would eventually prove too great a nuisance for French authorities, though, and were forced to lay down the remainder of the album at Sunset Studio Recordings In Los Angeles.
2. Neverland Ranch (Michael Jackson): The 3,000-acre property located eight miles north of Santa Inez, California was supposed to be a magical retreat into the childhood Michael Jackson was never able to experience, but it would eventually prove to be his own personal nightmare.
Named after the fantasy land inhabited by another boy who never grew up, Neverland Ranch featured a petting zoo, two railroads, a ferris wheel, carousel, Zipper, an octopus, pirate ship, and wave swinger, as well as a super slide, kiddie roller coaster, and bumper cars - all of which would ultimately be used to convict him in the court of public opinion, seen not as whimsical toys for a oversize boy but clever tools in the arsenal of an extremely wealthy pedophile, used to lure the young children he would later be accused of molesting.
Jackson vacated the ranch following his 2005 acquittal, saying police officials had "violated" the grounds with unauthorized searches, and that it no longer felt like a home, In 2008 he sold Neverland to Sycamore Valley Ranch, Inc., a real estate company in which he had part ownership. Following Jackson's death in 2009, rumors swirled that his relatives were planning to bury him on the grounds and restore the ranch to a Graceland-esque destination for his millions of fans. The family adamantly denied this, saying Michael would never want to be laid to rest in a place he came to associate with so much pain.
1. Graceland (Elvis Presley): The elaborate, over-the-top 13.8 acre, 23-room estate that was once home to Elvis Presley is today one of the most visited homes in the country, with more than 600,000 visitors passing through its gilded halls each year. The location boasts amenities fit for The King, including a swimming pool, racquetball court and the famous "Jungle Room," complete with indoor waterfall and lavish basement media lounge with three separate television sets so his Majesty could watch all three major networks at once. (Good thing he didn't make it to see satellite television.)
Widow Priscilla inherited Graceland following the death of Elvis' father Vernon in 1979. Faced with $500,000 in monthly upkeep expenses and a dwindling inheritance, she hired CEO Jack Soden to turn Graceland into a profitable tourist destination. Within a single month of opening to the public on June 7, 1982, the estate recouped its investment, and the trust has grown to over $100 million today.
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