Ah the golden (and now bygone) era of the rockstar, everything in excess, record labels made millions and everything was larger than life, especially when it came to Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. That’s when photographer Robert Landau started seeing billboards promoting some of the biggest acts in the history of popular music. Big brands, brought in big dollars and thus a giant promotional blitz for their new records was always part and parcel of every marketing strategy. Seeing these huge bands on even bigger billboards essentially elevated their status from merely being popular musicians, to becoming an iconic part of popular culture.
This pheonmenon of larger than life billboards promoting the biggest stars of the day started around 1969 – that’s when Landau first saw The Beatles peering down at him from up on high. Over the next 10 years as the music industry surged, countless artists were featured along the strip and all of them were gleefully captured by an exctiable Landau.
It was also a statement to the world that the record label was behind you 110% and as you can imagine, the premium spots on the Boulevard were worth serious money. And if you were going to spend such a large amount, you needed to get people’s attention and make a genuine impact – to the point that they would take their eye off the road to look up. That notion almost single-handedly sparked a ferocious surge in the type of creative used in the billboards, as each record label was determined to have the most outrageous and eye-catching designs. That goes a long way into explaining why for example a dog, sheep & even pig were used to build anticipation of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals.
He probably didn’t know it at the time, but through his photography he’s capture one of the finest moments of the music industry – where creativity was allowed to roam free and where music was truly supported.
“Not many people outside Sunset and the music industry were seeing these. What they were really trying to do was create buzz within the industry.”
Thankfully he’s placed all his incredible images in his new book titled ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip’, a modern day archive of excess through the power of advertising at it were. Over 100 photos are featured (we’ve featured a few below to give you a taste) and it’s only $50 so do yourself a favour and head over to Angel City Press & get yourself a copy of musical history. It’s well worth it.