Recounting the Rock ‘N Roll Era on The Sunset Strip: Photographer Robert Landau Provides a Visual Retrospective of LA Pop Music Billboards

Rock 'N Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip by Robert Landau (Angel City Press)

Rock ‘N Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip by Robert Landau (Angel City Press)

Revisit a time when massive hand-painted portraits of rock ‘n roll legends like The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper, The Doors and Led Zeppelin dominated the visual landscape of the Sunset Strip.

Los Angeles native Robert Landau makes the journey possible, who photographed the short-lived lifespan of the rock ‘n roll billboard as a teenager and has recently released a book Rock ‘N Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip via Angel City Press. The book shows off around 200 of Landau’s nearly 500 photographs, according to the Los Angeles Timesand includes credits for the art directors, photographers and artists involved in the billboards’ creation, including names like Saul Bass and Andy Warhol.

The first billboard image that Landau captured depicted the famous cover of The Beatles “Abbey Road,” an advertisement that would later become vandalized when someone swiped the head of Paul McCartney.

According to the LA Times, The Doors’ music label Elektra was the first to conceive of the billboard as a form of advertising (and, perhaps, music idol workship) for their artists while outdoor advertising companies Pacific Outdoor and Foster and Kleiser set the bar for amazing one-of-a-kind paintings created by “the best quality craftsman, many with degrees in fine arts” charging between $1,200-10,000.

“It was a very unique period in both art, in advertising and music when this happened, and I was fortunate enough to be there in the right time, in the right place,” says Landua in the video below, an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

By the time MTV had become mainstream, music advertising budgets were diverted to music videos, thus ending the era.

In the modern age when billboards are now executed digitally and the Sunset Strip billboards splash images for mostly fashion brands, we’re grateful for curious creatives like Robert Landau who has certainly preserved a piece of design and advertising art history for our visual inspiration.

Read LA Times’ “Billboard rock royalty on the Sunset Strip” here and NPR’s “A Brief History Of L.A.’s Billboard Art” for more on this story.

Billboard depicting The Beatles "Abbey Road" album in 1969 on the Sunset Strip

Billboard depicting The Beatles “Abbey Road” album in 1969 on the Sunset Strip


Rock 'N Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip, photographed by Robert Landau
Rock 'N Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip, photographed by Robert Landau

Rock 'N Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip, photographed by Robert Landau

Excerpts from Rock ‘N Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip, photographed by Robert Landau.

Questions/comments? Email the editor, Mani O’Brien at mo’brien@fidm.edu

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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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