“I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were talking so brave and so sweet
giving me head on the unmade bed
while the limousines wait in the street.”

In 1974 Leonard Cohen released his fourth album New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which included the song Chelsea Hotel #2. The song is about his secret affair with Janis Joplin that happened in hotel Chelsea in New York.

Cohen would eventually come to regret his choice to make people aware that the song was about Joplin, and the graphic detail in which the song describes their brief relationship. He once said that it was “an indiscretion for which I’m very sorry, and if there is some way of apologising to the ghost, I want to apologise now, for having committed that indiscretion.”

According to the official website hotel Chelsea is a world renowned residence for artists, musicians, writers, philosophers, and characters of the most singular and eccentric stripe which the imagination might conjure.

On the other hand the hotel is at 242th place (of 413) on the TripAdvisor’s list of New York hotels. It has some rave reviews:

“I stayed at this hotel because Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen lived at this hotel in the late 70’s, even though their room 100 that they stayed in isn’t there anymore, just the presence of knowing that they stayed there made it all the worthwhile!!!”

But also same very harsh critics:

“The staff is rude, the rooms are dumps – yes, Leonard Cohen slept with J. Joplin there in the 60s…but they still keep the same mattresses, I am sure.”

Anyway, the Chelsea Hotel will always be a part of show business. It will attract tourists who want to feel the energy of one of the most famous New York hotels – and that was achieved also with the help of Leonard Cohen’s lyrics.

Hotel Costes - album artwork

Another well-known hotel which is connected to popular culture is Hotel Costes – a Parisian hotel famous for its luxuriance and a popular hangout of the Paris smart set. It is mostly known for the releases of its own compilation lounge music CDs, which contain music played and mixed within by DJ Stephane Pompougnac.

Hotel Costes released 12 regular albums and a stunning 10 CD Anniversary box set featuring the complete Hotel Costes series pressed on gold discs and stored in a beautiful red velvet-like cloth-covered mini cabinet with ten drawers that hold each disc separately.

Hotel Costes’ compilations are another example of building brand equity with the help of popular culture. It became one of the most famous hotels in Paris – not only for its quality, design, superior service or location, but for the unique marketing strategy.

Bar Italia in Soho, London

To conclude this blog post I would just like to mention another “brand dropping” – it’s the Pulp’s song Bar Italia, from their 1995 masterpiece Different Class (in my opinion one of the top 10 albums of all time).

The song is about a hangover after a night of alcohol and drugs. The song ended with the lines:

“That’s what you get from clubbing it
You can’t go home and go to bed
Because it hasn’t worn off yet
And now it’s morning
There’s only one place we can go
It’s around the corner in Soho
Where other broken people go
Let’s go”

Even though the bar is explicitly mentioned only in the song’s title, the “only one place we can go” that’s “round the corner in Soho” is indeed Soho’s Bar Italia. The bar is open 24 hours and it serves great coffee. You get a real mix of people there, true Italians, tourists, even Kate Moss (it’s a rumour) and those who have heard the song by Pulp and want to experience it first-hand.

This is another example of powerful and positive effects that popular culture can have on different brands. We just have to find a way to achieve that.

  1. The song Bar Italia by Pulp was the reason, why the author of this blog invited me for a cup of coffee in the real Bar Italia last year. Thanks to this blog post “everybody knows” that – as Leonard Cohen would put it. The coffee was very good. :)

  2. Yes, coffee was great and so was the atmosphere.

    There is also a bar in Soho called Flat White that serves probably the best coffee in that part of London. I’ll try to find out if there is a “flat white” in some song.

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