To the majority of L.A. residents, LAX is, to be brutally honest, a hell on earth. Endless traffic, endless lines, endless noise… A curse on those friends who need a ride to the airport! But imagine, gentle reader, if instead of being the stuff of nightmares it was a dream come true, a portal to paradise rather than a gateway to hell.
Perhaps you’ve just stepped off an oh-so-long flight from London’s Heathrow. No matter the time of year, it was gray and raining when you left, but you step out into a warm, dry heat. You head for a hotel, already passing sights that are familiar from movies, and you are greeted with a smile. Maybe you head out for food, vast portions that also come with friendly service and a not-so-familiar suggestion that you “have a nice day.” Which you do. Especially since everyone keeps telling you how great your accent sounds.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many British musicians decide to move across the pond, just a fraction of the estimated 200,000 Brits living in LA, but still a comparatively large number when one considers the talent ratio. Some of the following names may be rather familiar…
Motörhead’s legendary leader first came to the US with his previous band, Hawkwind, in 1973 and moved to L.A. in 1990, a move that he later stated had saved the band’s career. Such was his love for the Rainbow Bar & Grill that he chose to live in a small West Hollywood apartment just a few blocks away from the place, and for the remainder of his life became part of the furniture, always at the end of the bar playing the games machine and talking to fans. When he became too ill to visit this home from home, the Rainbow’s owner Mikael Maglieri brought the games machine to his apartment, and Lemmy died playing it on December 28, 2015. The patio bar is now known as Lemmy’s Lounge and contains a statue of him.
Yup, that’s right, one of L.A.’s most iconic rockers is a Brit. Well, okay he’s a duel citizen, but he didn’t get U.S. citizenship until 1996, and was actually born in England, either in Hampstead, London (according to Wikipedia) or Stoke-On-Trent (according to pretty much everyone else). Either way, he’s definitely a Brit. “I do consider myself British,” he told the Telegraph newspaper. “I have very strong feelings about my British heritage. My first years were there, I went to school there, and I have seemingly endless family on that side of the pond. So I’ve always felt most comfortable in England.” He is now a board trustee of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association. It would be fair to say that’s he acclimatized rather well.
3. Elton John
Given that Sir Elton has homes in London, Atlanta, Venice, and Nice, we may be stretching this one a bit, but who doesn’t love Elton John? Indeed, the Rocket Man has quite a history in Los Angeles, including playing his first ever U.S. show at the Troubadour on August 25, 1970, and apparently losing his virginity here that same year. From 1975 to ’76 he was also part-owner of the Los Angeles Aztecs soccer team. Oh and he overdosed on cocaine here during “Elton Week” in 1975, but the less said about that the better, since he has now been sober for 29 years.
4. Billy Idol
Becoming a U.S. citizen in 2018, Idol first moved to Los Angeles in the late ’80s, having built a successful career after the demise of his early punk band Generation X. Fitting the L.A. rocker scene like a studded leather glove, he bought himself a Harley on which to cruise about, but, unfortunately, was involved in a serious accident in Hollywood in 1990, after he ran a stop sign and was hit by a car. By all accounts, the accident cost him a staring role in Oliver Stone’s movie The Doors, and the role of T-1000 in Terminator 2. Thankfully, Idol made a full recovery and, now in his 60’s, continues to rock.
5. Ian Astbury
A lot of The Cult’s early material seems to focus on native American culture, and frontman Ian Astbury once described hearing The Doors classic “The End” as a “religious experience”, so it would make sense that he relocated to Los Angeles after the release of his band’s forth album, Sonic Temple, to be closer to all the things that fascinated him. In February of this year Variety revealed that Astbury had put his three bedroom home — shared with his wife Aimee Nash — in Beachwood Canyon on the market for a cool $1.575 million, upgrading to a Mediterranean villa in Los Felez which was formerly owned by comedian Bill Burr.
6. Ozzy Osbourne
Perhaps the only person on Earth to speak in the American vernacular whilst retaining an indecipherable ‘Brummie’ accent, the Prince Of Darkness has been a fixture in Los Angeles since the early ’70s, when Black Sabbath recorded the Vol 4 masterpiece here. Having built a ludicrously successful solo career after getting fired from Sabbath in 1979, Ozzy went on to become a rather reluctant reality TV star on MTV’s The Osbournes, and on April 13, 2002 was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 6780 Hollywood Boulevard. He also has a star on the Birmingham Walk Of Stars, although it’s less a walk and more of a stroll.
7. George Michael
When one thinks of George Michael these days, inevitably what comes to mind is a “show and tell” incident in a Beverly Hills bathroom, with the emphasis very much on tell. On April 7, 1998 Micheal was arrested by an undercover officer for “engaging in a lewd act,” fined $810 and sentenced to 80 hours community service. What is often forgotten is that since his death in 2016 countless charities revealed that he had been anonymously supporting them for years, including the children’s counseling charity Childline who said he had donated “millions.” He once tipped a student nurse working as a bartender over $6,000 because she was in debt. How about we remember that instead of a little cottaging.
8. Robbie Williams
Robbie Williams was just 16 years old when he first found fame with the boy band Take That. Not surprisingly, he struggled to cope with fame at such a young age and developed drug and alcohol problems to the extent that he was asked to leave the band. Cleaning himself up, he then launched a massive solo career, going on to sell nearly 20 million albums worldwide. Since 2006 Williams has spent most of his time in L.A. and even founded a soccer team, LA Vale FC, after building a soccer pitch at his home. In 2017 he reportedly sold his Beverly Hills mansion for a staggering $9.9 million.
9. Steve Jones
Since making his home in Los Angeles this former Sex Pistol, who was ranked among the top 100 guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone, has carved out a career as a session musician and radio DJ, notably on the much-missed Indie 103.1 station. Since the station’s demise he has been a DJ on L.A.’s KLOS, offering an eclectic and often hilarious selection of music and guests, including such names as Ozzy Osbourne and Dave Grohl. Along with Ian Astbury, Jones has also been a member of Hollywood United F.C., an amateur soccer team founded by ex-Pats at the Cat & Fiddle pub on Sunset Boulevard. If you ever need cheering up, you should check out his Instagram page.
You can’t win ’em all.