The Forum is a venue with so much history, it’s hard to fathom. The Inglewood, CA venue has seen a renaissance over the past few years, thanks to a relatively recent purchase and renovation by Madison Square Garden Company. The venue, which was also known at times as the “Great Western Forum” and “The Forum Presented by Chase”, has hosted countless incredible concerts from the best artists in music over the years, and was the home to the Lakers of the NBA and the Kings of the NHL from 1967-1999. The story, however, begins with a Canadian businessman with dreams of bringing an NHL franchise to the Los Angeles area.
Jack Kent Cooke was a Canadian-American entrepreneur with an incredible knack for entertainment properties, excelling in broadcasting, publishing, and sports. After moving to America, he became wildly successful in the Los Angeles area, eventually becoming a powerful enough figure to purchase the Lakers in 1965. A year later, Cooke’s dream of bringing an NHL franchise came to fruition, as he paid $2 Million to the NHL to create the Kings. The home of the Lakers at the time, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, told Cooke that he wouldn’t be able to bring his new NHL franchise to their building, so Cooke was forced to spend $16 Million to build an arena of his own that could accommodate both franchises in the far-from-downtown-LA Inglewood, CA. Thus, The Forum was born.
The building was designed by architect Charles Luckman, who also designed Madison Square Garden in New York and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. Luckman wanted the building to evoke the Forum in Rome, so built the new version in Inglewood with an oval shape and no visible support pillars (the first venue of this size of it’s kind), helping the venue take on a unique design with a huge floor and amazing sight lines. No seat in the venue is more than 170 feet from the floor, making the 18,500-person capacity venue seem much more intimate than it actually is. With it’s classic arches and red painted exterior, the venue is truly a sight to behold. The interior of the venue is covered with beautiful chandeliers and colorful carpets, giving the classy-looking venue it’s “Fabulous” nickname.
Opening in 1967, The Forum established itself as the premier sports and music venue on the West Coast. The Lakers would follow Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain to seven NBA Finals between 1967 and 1979 (winning the championship in 1972), and a huge amount of concerts took place, with several classic shows being memorialized on live recordings, which were a newer trend of the era. Eric Clapton‘s supergroup Cream played two shows at the Forum on their farewell tour, and all of the live tracks on their final Goodbye LP were taken from these two recordings. Led Zeppelin performed 16 times at the Forum between 1970 and 1977, with parts of How the West Was Won being recorded there.
Listen to this insane version of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” from How the West Was Won, recorded at the Forum in 1972, courtesy of YouTube user Luca Pasotti:
The Jackson 5 released two live albums called Live at the Forum in 1970 and 1972, and Parliament-Funkadelic recorded half of their Live: P-Funk Earth Tour at the famed venue. The Bee Gees album Here at Last… Bee Gees… Live was recorded at the Forum, and Alive II by Kiss was culled from a 1977 three-night run they played at the venue.
Listen to audio of The Jackson 5 performing “Ain’t No Sunshine” from their Live at the Forum album from 1972, courtesy of YouTube user Natari DooDoo7:
The venue also hosted Paul McCartney’s first Los Angeles-area shows since 1966 when he brought Wings to the Forum for three shows in 1976. Elvis Presley also left his mark on the venue, performing sold out afternoon and evening shows in 1972 and again in 1974, both times to crowds that exceeded the listed capacity of the venue and broke attendance records previously set by the Jackson 5.
Listen to Elvis perform the classic “Can’t Help Falling In Love” live at the Forum in 1974, courtesy of YouTube user Hosein Yunesi:
in 1979, Jack Kent Cooke sold the Lakers, the Kings, and the Forum to businessman Jerry Buss for $67.5 Million. Cooke went on to become full time owner of the Washington Redskins during their 80’s glory years, while Buss turned the Lakers into an absolute juggernaut with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, winning five championships in a 10 year span.
Meanwhile, the Forum’s concert calendar was packed with amazing shows. Queen finished their tour at the Forum in 1982, marking their last-ever headlining performances in the U.S. before frontman Freddie Mercury passed away. Also, Diana Ross recorded a wildly popular television special live at the Forum in 1981, featuring Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones.
Watch Diana Ross perform “Upside Down” with Michael Jackson from her TV Special “Diana”, filmed live at the Forum, courtesy of YouTube user NilesNL69:
Other notable shows at the venue include the 1986 Amnesty International-sponsored “Conspiracy of Hope” tour with U2, Sting, Bryan Adams, Jackson Browne, Peter Gabriel, Loud Reed, Joan Baez, and The Neville Brothers, Nirvana‘s final Los Angeles area show was performed at the Forum, and countless Los Angeles bands like Guns N’Roses and Motley Crüe performed at the venue in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Watch U2 cover “Maggie’s Farm” by Bob Dylan, live at the Forum during the “Conspiracy of Hope” benefit concert in 1986:
Eventually, the venue became outdated for the sports teams it hosted, and The Staples Center was built, taking the Lakers and Kings to downtown L.A. The Forum got sold to the Faithful Central Bible Church, which held services there for its congregation of over 12,000 people. While the venue was still used for pop and rock concerts, some bands weren’t allowed to play their due to religious objections. During this time period, however, a band called Phish decided to open their first post-hiatus tour at the Forum on February 14th, 2003. The show sticks out for its memorable cover of Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show‘s “The Cover of Rolling Stone” (the band was on the cover of the magazine at the time), and for a fan running on stage during “AC/DC Bag.”
The venue’s relative lack of bookings in the 2000s led to it being used for films and music videos, as it was featured in projects by Foo Fighters, Iron Maiden, and Weezer, to name a few. Of course, the venue would be immortalized in the Michael Jackson film This is It, as Jackson and his band used the Forum for rehearsals for his ill-fated final tour.
Watch Michael Jackson perform “The Way You Make Me Feel” from “This is It”, courtesy of YouTube user totoafricax:
Prince held a 21-show residency at the venue in 2011 that proved why The Purple One was one of the greatest performers of all time.
Watch 51 minutes of live Prince goodness from the Forum in 2011, with guest spots from Sheila E., Alicia Keys, and Cuba Gooding Jr., courtesy of YouTube user 47hobbs:
In 2012, the Madison Square Garden Company purchased the Forum for $23.5 Million, and then put the venue through a $70+ Million renovation that would strip the venue of it’s basketball and hockey capabilities, officially turning the venue into one of the largest music-only complex’s in the country. In 2014, the Forum re-opened with a six night stand by classic rock legends The Eagles, and has since seen the venue return to it’s glory days of the 70’s and 80’s, with countless amazing tours stopping at the Forum for its unique and classy vibe.
The renovation gave the venue one more unique piece to fit into its puzzle, with the addition of star lights on the ceiling. When Phish stopped at The Forum shortly after it’s re-opening in 2014, lighting designer Chris Kuroda wasted no time in putting this new addition to use, as can be seen from this video of “Harry Hood” from 10/24/14, courtesy of YouTube user LazyLightning55a:
In September 2014, just as the venue was to re-open, the Forum was added to the National Register of Historic Places, giving the venue landmark status. The Forum is a truly special venue, and is certainly on the shortlist for most beloved venue in the world. Its unique design and comfortable interior constantly draw fans and major artists back to this room, delivering classic show after classic show for a whopping 49 years and running. We can’t wait to catch Phish there tomorrow night!