(Chicago Sun Times by Michael R. Nejman)

LOS ANGELES----It's mid-week through my two week stay in Los Angeles, and I've already done the Universal Studios Tour, Disneyland and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Mann's Chinese Theater, the corner of Hollywood and Vine and the "Hollywood" sign are all snapshot memories. Normally, the "been there, done that, what's next" syndrome would be setting in, but today is special. Today, I'm taking a customized, self-designed tour. The cover of the battered note pad in my hand reads, "Rock Tour: L.A.• The notes, the result of more than a week's research, include the addresses and background information on a series of rock 'n' roll points of interest---a potentially excellent adventure. But one just doesn't uncover history on a whim. Preparations are in order. First consideration: tunes. No problem there, as I pull out a homemade tape of eclectic West Coast hits: " California Girls," by the Beach Boys; "I Love L.A.," by Randy Newman; "Los Angeles," by X; the Eagles' classic "Hotel California"; "L.A. Woman," by the Doors; the Byrds' "So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star," and the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme song. Next consideration is a mode of movement: My friend's candy-apple-red convertible is perfect for this musical mission. Awesome. All that's left is to slip on my L.A. Gear gym shoes, adjust my T-shirt, shorts and "Risky Business" shades, and slide behind the wheel. Definitely hip. The first stop on this venture down L.A.'s rock heritage trail is the Whisky-A-Go-Go, 8901 Sunset Blvd. on the Strip. This West Coast shrine, like the Marquee Club in London, was home to a who's who of '60s rock. California groups such as the Doors, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds and the Iron Butterfly all worked as the Whisky's house band at one time or another. Elmer Valentine and Mario Maglieri opened the club in January of 1964; record producer Lou Adler became a partner in the mid-'70s. During the club's first decade, the likes of Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Cream and Traffic all performed as headliners. Jimi Hendrix, who never officially played the club, occasionally showed up to jam. Many sordid tales about the decadent "life-in-the-fast-lane" L.A. rock scene have been associated with the Whisky's early days. Author Pamela (I'm With The Band; Confessions of a Groupie) DesBarres, a regular patron back then, related this memory in a recent interview: "One performance that really stands out in my mind is when a very wasted Jim Morrison climbed up on stage to jam with the 1910 Fruitgum Company. The band tried to ignore him, but he wouldn't leave the stage. He took off his shirt, started unzipping his fly, and then tried to shove the microphone down his pants. It was one of the few times Mario had to turn off the lights and sound system, to get Jim off the stage." In the late '70s and early '80s, bands like Van Halen, Guns 'n' Roses, X and Ratt all launched their careers at the Whisky. This year, the club celebrates its 25th anniversary.  Next to the Whisky is Duke's Coffee Shop, where the Doors played their first official club gig in the early '60s when it was a nightclub named London Fog. Just down the street is the Roxy, 9009 Sunset Blvd., the 450-seat showcase club that features today's hottest new talent. Next door, at 9015 Sunset Blvd., is a legendary rock eatery, the Rainbow Bar and Grill. Led Zeppelin once held court here and Rod Stewart organized a soccer team called the Rainbow Hollywood Vampires---with teammates Alice Cooper, Keith Moon, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson and Micky Dolenz. Their names are inscribed in a wooden sign post in the upstairs bar. Today, the Rainbow draws such talents as Julian Lennon, Poison, Motley Crue and Guns 'n' Roses. The next stop is L.A.'s rock-'n'-roll high school, at 7850 Melrose. Fairfax High is the alma mater of such recording giants as producer-composer Phil Spector; Tijuana Brass man Herb Alpert; Lou Adler, who launched the careers of Carol King, Cheech and Chong, the Mamas and Papas and Jan Berry and Dean Torrence (better known as Jan and Dean). Now, on a more somber note, this rock fan will pay homage to Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and John Belushi. Joplin died in 1970, at 27, of a heroin-morphine overdose at the Landmark Hotel, which is now the Highland Garden Apartments, at 7047 Franklin Ave. Then it's a cruise up Laurel Canyon Boulevard to the Canyon Country Store. Parking the car, I walk to 8021 Rothdell, a white house, now in the midst of renovation, where Morrison thrived. (He died in Paris.) Belushi, 33, died of a narcotics overdose in 1982 in Bungalow 2 at the Chateau Marmont, at 8221 Sunset Blvd. Next scheduled stop is a burger run to the Hard Rock Cafe, at the corner of San Vicente and Beverly. The Hard Rock is a great place to munch while enjoying mini-rock-museum surroundings. Items not to miss include an autographed U2 "Unforgettable Fire" World Peace Tour flag, Madonna's silver sequin dress, and a Bob Dylan display featuring an autographed acoustic guitar. Then it's back to the Sunset Strip and a drive east to a rock monument. On a sidewalk in front of the Guitar Center---an instrument-store-to-the-stars at 7425 Sunset---is the "Rock Walk," collection of handprints and autographs of rock's greatest talents, in the same tradition as the Hollywood "Walk of Fame" and Mann's Chinese Theater. Some of the artists who have stamped their handprints and signed their names in cement since Rock Walk was created in 1985 include Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Les Paul, drummer Bill Ludwig and Robert Moog (inventor of the synthesized keyboard). It's always fun to bring home a souvenir, so the next stop is the Rock Store, 6817 Melrose, run by Paul Scharfman. There are thousands of items, including Fillmore West concert posters, stage clothing worn by various stars, buttons, promotional gimmicks, and 532 Elvis items. I can't decide between the Elvis Costello "My Aim is True" dart board (no price posted), Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender" moisturizing milk bath ($6), a Peter Gabriel miniature plastic "Sledgehammer" ($85), or a Corgi cast metal "Yellow Submarine" toy from the Beatles' movie ($450). Oh well, I've always been a sucker for "Love Me Tender". Back in the convertible, musical mission accomplished, I slide in the cassette tape and listen to the Beach Boys sing of blondes, beaches and bikinis as I drive into the hazy, smoggy L.A. sunset.