Residences of Rock, Vol. 1

by Sheldon Rocha Leal

There is being famous, and there is being so famous that you can’t live in suburbia, because the fans and media want a piece of you 24/7/365. Many of the super famous have resorted to building their own estates and compounds where they can be left alone to create and rest without prying eyes scrutinizing their every move.

These artists have created compounds where there every fantasy can be fulfilled. Most of these houses contain recording studios and other related facilities, which will help facilitate their creative endeavors. Creative palaces and compounds, where creativity is stimulated, where they are able to liaise with their advisors and plot the future trajectory of their careers.

The houses of the above 5 artists were reviewed in this article: David Bowie; Prince; Frank Sinatra; Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson

These estates and compounds are the ultimate status symbol, exhibiting the true star power of the given artist. The bigger the property the more powerful the artist.

In this article I will explore 5 of these residences, some of which are open to the public as national monuments or houses that can be rented for holidays or functions:

Graceland: Elvis Presley

  • Date Built: 1939
  • Purchase Price: $102,000
  • Property Size: 5.6 Hectare
  • House Size: 1630 SQM
  • Bedrooms: 8
  • Bathrooms: 8
  • Recording Studio: Jungle Room
  • Trophy Building: Yes
  • Racquetball Court: Yes
  • Music Room: Yes
  • Meditation Garden: Yes
  • Shooting Range: Yes
  • Stables: Yes
  • Design Style: Colonial Revival

The Graceland mansion was built in 1939 and was named after the daughter of the then owner Stephen Toof, owner of the oldest printing firm in Memphis.

The racquetball court is now used as a trophy display area

The house is set on a 5.6 hectare ranch and is in itself 1630sqm. It consists of 8 bedrooms and bathrooms, there is a music room, 23 rooms in total and various out buildings. Elvis added on to the mansion in the years he lived there: he built on a recording studio known as The Jungle Room, where he recorded various albums; a trophy building which housed some of his items of appreciation; a racquetball facility, which now serves as an awards building. There is also a massive underground television room and a billiards room.

Elvis bought the house in 1957 for $100,000, after he became so famous that it became difficult for him to live in a suburb. The road in front of the house was renamed Elvis Presley Boulevard. The house was listed as a national monument in 1991 and is today the second most visited house in the USA, after the White House, receiving over 650,000 guests a year.

The famous Jungle Room

Elvis Presley, his infant twin brother (Garon) and his parents are buried on the property, in the meditation garden. The house also consists of a smokehouse and stables.

Neverland Ranch: Michael Jackson

The main house, Tuscan inspired mansion
  • Date Built: 1982
  • Purchase price: $30million
  • Property Size: 1,000 Hectare
  • House Size: 1,200 SQM
  • Bedrooms: 16
  • Bathrooms: 29
  • Movie Theatre: Yes
  • Tennis Court: Yes
  • Pool House, which was used as an arcade: Yes
  • Dance Studio: Yes
  • Wine Cellar: Yes
  • Lake: Yes
  • Railway: Yes (x2)
  • Railway Station: Yes
  • Zoo: Yes
  • Amusement Park: Yes (x50 rides)
  • Guest Houses: 2xGuest Houses (one house with 4 Bedrooms and one house with 2 bedrooms)
  • Barns: Yes
  • Design Style: Tudor
The train station on Michael Jackson’s property

The estate is situated in Santa Barbra, California, specifically in Los Olivos. The property was bought by property developer William Bone, and at the time it was called Zaca Laderas Ranch. After William bought the property in 1977 it was renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch. William commissioned the development of the main mansion on the property, using all the techniques he had learnt over the years, in property development. The house was completed in 1982 and Michael Jackson bought the property in 1988 and renamed it Neverland Ranch.

The amusement park at Neverland Ranch

The house has many interesting features, amongst them a 50 seat theatre, dance studio, a zoo and barns, a fantasy tree house, a railway station and train with confectionary stand at the station, a lake, on which visitors can boat, a boat house and an amusement park. The main house only consists of 6 bedrooms, but there are a total of 29 bedrooms on the ranch. The pool house was used as an arcade and the master suite was set on two floors and had a walk in safe.

Movie theatre at the mansion

The house was put on the market in 2015 for $100million, but after no interest was shown, the price was reduced to $67million. It is one of the most expensive houses on the market in the USA. As of 2018 the house has still not been sold.

Paisley Park: Prince

The main facade of the compound
  • Date Built: 1988
  • Build price: $10million
  • House Size: 6,000 SQM
  • Property Size: 2.4 hectare
  • Recording Studio: Yes (x4)
  • Night Club: Yes
  • Sound Stage: Yes
  • Rehearsal Space: Yes
  • Dance Studio: Yes
  • Mediation Studio: Yes
  • Wardrobe: x10 and a department that designed his clothes
  • Vault: This vault contained many of Prince’s unreleased works, trophies and awards. Over 2,000 were found in the vault after his death.
  • Offices: where his staff worked.
  • Design Style: Modern
One of 4 studios at the house

The compound is situated in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Prince passed away in an elevator in the house in 2016, from a prescription drug overdose. His ashes are now displayed at the multiplex in an urn styled in the shape of the Love Sign symbol (his official name for a time).

When conceptualizing the compound, Prince indicated to Bret Theony, the architect, that he wanted a space where he would be able to create at any time the creative bug hit. Because as Prince said, creativity is something that is not regulated by time or working hours. To this end recording studios at the house, of which there are 4, have no windows and there are no clocks in the house, so that Prince’s creative process would not be regulated by the passage of time.

Part of the vault at the compound

Prince also indicated to the architect that he wanted a space where he could perform, record music, work on film productions and accommodation where he and his musicians could stay when working on projects.

The exterior of the house contains very few windows and light inside the house, is provided by various pyramid shaped skylights. It was completed in 1988, but was originally conceptualized by Prince in 1983 whilst he filming Purple Rain. The house is just over 6,000sqm and was originally built for $10million.

Live performance venue in the house: there were various performances hosted at the house

Prince was very private and when he invited people to the house, which was not often, they were not allowed to bring in any recording or mobile devices, not even a notebook. Prior to passing away it is alleged that he had conveyed that he wanted to turn the house into a museum, like Graceland, when he had passed. The house has now been turned into a museum and tours to the house are managed by Graceland Holdings, the company that manages tours to Elvis’ previous residence, Graceland.

Mandalay Estate: David Bowie

The Balinese mansion in Mustique
  • Date Built: 1989
  • Last Sale Price: $20million
  • Property Size: 2.5 Hectare
  • House Size: 1,579 SQM
  • Bedrooms: 7
  • Recording Studio: Yes
  • Film Library: Yes (featuring 2,000 movies)
  • Library: Yes (featuring 3,000 books)
  • Music Rehearsal Space: Yes
  • Performance Room/Games Room: Yes
  • Card Room: Yes
  • Design Style: Balinese
No wonder he couldn’t get any work done on the island

Mandalay Estate, is David Bowie’s former vacation home on the island of Mustique, a small private island in the Grenadines, in the West Indies, specifically Britannia Bay. David Bowie bought the land in 1986 and the house was completed in 1989. The Balinese inspired compound was designed by architect Arne Hasselqvist and the interiors completed by interior designer Robert Litwiller. Although not in keeping with the architecture typical on the island, David Bowie insisted on something that stood out from the surrounding homes.

The Bamboo Lounge in the house

The house was sold to poet Felix Dennis in 1994 for $5million. Felix was adamant to keep the house true to how David Bowie kept it. When Felix passed away in 2014, it was sold for $20million. Now people can rent the estate for $40,000 a week. The house was re-named Mandalay Estate by Felix after the Rudyard Kipling poem “Road To Mandalay”. It was originally known as Britannia Bay House.

The patio overlooking the pool

David Bowie is reported to have said that the house was so amazingly beautiful and that the surroundings are so idyllic, that he found it difficult to create in the space. Felix Dennis didn’t have the same problem, he was prolific in his writing at the house and added the Writer’s Cottage (an out building) in which he did most of his writing. Dennis spent about 5 months of the year at the estate.

Twin Palms: Frank Sinatra

Mid-Century Modern Mansion
  • Date Built: 1947
  • Last Sale Price: $3,25 million
  • Build Price: $150,000
  • Property Size 3 Hectare
  • House Size: 418 SQM
  • Bedrooms: 4
  • Bathrooms: 7
  • Recording Studio: Yes
  • Pool: Grand Piano Design
  • Design Style: Mid-Century Modern
The lounge in Frank’s party palace

This was Frank Sinatra’s weekend retreat/party home. He commissioned the creation of this house after signing a $1million contract with MGM. It was designed by architect E Stewart Williams and was his first commission. It is situated in the Coachella Valley, in the resort city of Palm Springs, situated in the Sonoran Desert.

Frank originally wanted a Georgian house on the property, but after being presented with two options, by the architect, he decided to go with this mid-century modern design. Palm Springs is known for its mid-century modern architecture.

The Master’s Bedroom

Frank wanted the house completed in time for a Christmas party he was hosting and the architects duly complied with his request. Frank only lived in the house between 1947–1954 and landed up selling it in 1957, after his personal infidelities became public and he divorced Nancy Sinatra in favor of Eva Gardener. The house was sold to a Texan family who owned the house for over 43 years and allowed the house to fall into disrepair. In 1997 the house was sold for $135,000. In 2000 the house was sold for $1,3million and for $2,9million in 2005. In 2010 the house was put on the market for $3,25million.

The house is named after the twin palm trees that feature at the entrance to the house.

The Twin Palms

The house is now used as an events venue for weddings and parties and individuals are also able to rent the house for $78,000 a month. Private tours of the house are also conducted. The house has been declared a historic site in the USA.

These amazing estates fascinate me and it’s completely comprehensible that people who have attained the level of success the selected artists have attained would want to protect themselves in these creative sanctuaries. There are a few more residences I would like to explore in future articles, but that is something for another time…