By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
I’m driving through west Hollywood and I hear music. A rocking guitar. Blasting from somewhere outside my car. Loud enough to drown out the tune playing in my Sonata — Steve Earle’s Guitar Town.
I hit pause on the Spotify, flick the auto-down switch on the driver’s-side window, and my car is flooded with a legendary guitar song turned up to 20. I crane my neck out the window scanning for the source — and then I see it.
Is that a guitar, a gigantic guitar, looming, glowing, blaring into the South Florida night? The music is coming from … a giant guitar!
Standing straight up. Hundreds of feet up. Its contoured body electric purple. Its strings shooting laserlike into space. And the song it’s playing, the song that’s electrifying the air over the casino, over the land of the Seminoles and over this entire extraordinary swath of our peninsula:
Stairway to Heaven.
OK, so that didn’t really happen — the music part, not the building. It is a building, right? Or is it? It looks more like a mammoth sculpture, this new Giant Guitar Hotel that opens Oct. 24 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
It may be a 638-room luxury hotel, but resembling 450-foot, back-to-back guitars with six glowing guitar strings on each side, it’s got the visual impact of a mega-conspicuous work of art in public spaces. Illuminated at night, lording unobstructed over the otherwise dark Hollywood sky, it’s a stunning sight that almost looks like it should be in Vegas. But no, like it or not, it’s our own outlandish landmark, one like no other in the world. It’s our Eiffel Tower — if Eiffel worked in heavier metal.
But what, we wondered, does it sound like? What is the song this Giant Guitar should be playing when it opens?
That is the fun question that we put to our readers, social media followers a few of our notable friends. Their responses were equally fun — you can see a killer playlist of the entries from readers and followers here, http://www.cityandshore.com/features/special-feature/readers-call-what-should-giant-guitar-play/. The song that received the most votes was perhaps the most famous rock song of all, Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, whom we thank for providing the soundtrack to the fantasy sequence that opens this story.
Not surprisingly, most responses were drawn from the classic rock genre, ranging from the absolutely unexpected — Cease to Exist by Charles Manson — to the completely expected guitar songs like Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry and Purple Haze by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
“I’d say Purple Haze for sure!” said Nicole Henry, a soul chanteuse with South Florida roots. “Otherwise, I’d turn to a blues legend like Robert Johnson, since he was like a grandfather to rock ’n’ roll.”
The Chuck Berry classic about that country boy who could play a guitar just like a-ringin’ a bell was proposed by broadcasting legend Tony Segretto, who followed up it with Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll and Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing.
Another guitar-centric song, I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, was suggested by Ron Magill, Zoo Miami Goodwill Ambassador and communications director.
“The shape of the hotel is obviously an electric guitar and that song opens heavily with an in-your-face, iconic electric guitar riff,” Magill said. “It has great energy and is a bit of a ‘hard rock’ song, so I find it fitting.”
The selection of Cream’s 1968 song Crossroads by Chana Sheldon, executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, was accompanied by insightful commentary.
“Crossroads is of similar provenance as the Hard Rock Cafe, founded in London in 1971,” Sheldon said. “The song is an homage to Cross Road Blues, written and recorded by American blues artist Robert Johnson in 1936. As applied to the Hard Rock resort, Crossroads is a multi-faceted metaphor. It is a meeting place; music is the crossroads where diverse cultures, like London and the Mississippi Delta meet; and it is where, legend holds, Robert Johnson sold his soul to play guitar (the shape of the resort), thereby originating the musical genre for which the resort is named.”
Not all selections were rockers. Emmy Award-winning journalist Laverne McGee picked the casino-apropos For the Love of Money by the O’Jays. And not all were from the good ol’ days, either — 2015’s Sugar by Maroon 5 was suggested by Jarett Levan, president of BBX Capital Corp., headquartered in Fort Lauderdale. And entertainment journalist Kavita Channe selected this year’s Beautiful People by Ed Sheeran and Khalid “because there are beautiful people surrounding South Florida.”
Predictably, we received an assortment of selections with “guitar” in the title, like the country hit Big Guitar by Blackhawk, written by part-time Florida resident Henry Gross (of 1976 hit Shannon fame).
“The most appropriate song is indeed one called Big Guitar,” said Scott Benarde, director of communications at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. “Lyrics are quite apropos.” (“Makes the whole world ring like a big guitar.”) Benarde also suggested Guitar Man by Bread.
And South Florida’s cultural eclecticism received a nod or two. Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist Dave Barry spiked his offering with his inimitable brand of bon mot: “The giant guitar should play Oye Como Va because 1) it’s a guitar song, and 2) the lyrics are in Spanish, so it reflects South Florida’s Latin culture (‘Oye Como Va’ means, literally, ‘Crank It Way Up’).”
Another Latin favorite, Conga by Miami Sound Machine, was suggested by Miami chef extraordinaire Michelle Bernstein. And GiGi Diaz, iHeartRadio personality, added: “There’s no way such an iconic structure could play just one song! Definitely should be a medley that includes Guns N’ Roses, Madonna, Santana and Celia Cruz … We ARE in South Florida after all!”
Scottish-born Rod Stewart-impersonator George Orr bypassed naming a hit from his fellow UK crooner and opted for a song of personal import instead. “This is a ‘no-brainer’ for me, an immigrant,” he said. “Jimi Hendrix playing The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Tennis legend Chris Evert had a slightly different take on an American tune, selecting Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. “He represents America to me,” she said.
So, what song does the Hard Rock think its Giant Guitar should play?
“As for my comment, you will have to wait until Oct. 24 to find out,” says Bo Guidry, president of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. “I think everyone will absolutely enjoy and be mesmerized by the festivities. The façade of the Guitar Hotel will actually be an attraction unto itself and has capabilities that will rival anything in Las Vegas.”
Among those is sure to be “The Oculus,” a sight and sound extravaganza at the grand entrance that will blend water, fire and technology choreographed to music. And, as for songs that will actually be playing at the Hard Rock, Adam Levine and Maroon 5 will headline a show-stopping weekend of grand opening festivities with a concert Oct. 25 christening the new Hard Rock Live, which is expected to stage at least 200 nights of entertainment a year.