The era of the rock and roll billboards on Sunset Strip began in the 1960s and pretty much ended with the early 1980s advent of MTV, when the promotional money moved to music videos. While it lasted, the Strip was where record companies put up billboards to announce new albums to music lovers hitting the Whiskey or Tower Records, stroke the egos of visiting artists and needle their competitors in the music business who would probably drive on Sunset at some point every week. The boards were giant, handpainted works of art that would only stay up a week or so, then be taken down and painted over. They would all be lost to history if LA photographer Robert Landau hadn't started taking photos of the billboards as a teenager. He saved his Kodachromes and now his record of the era is out in a new book, Rock 'n' Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip, from my publisher, Angel City Press in Santa Monica.
Now about that missing head of Paul McCartney on the billboard that hailed the 1969 release of Abbey Road. Landau said he always wondered what happened to Paul's head. There are photos in the book of the billboard with and without the head. As part of the book release he put out the word — does anyone know about Paul's head? — and he hit the jackpot. Robert Quinn came forward and said he took the head as a prank on his 19th birthday that December. He still had it at home in Woodland Hills.
Let's go to the videotape.
At the book's release party on Saturday at the Denenberg Gallery in West Hollywood, Quinn brought the purloined head — and met the artist who painted it, 94-year-old Mario Rueda.