Destinations

Tired Of The Same Old Sights - Try A Musical Tour Of England

Stonehenge? Been there. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace? Done that. Frequent visitors to the British Isles who are tired of the same old sights might want to try some new sounds -- a travel itinerary keyed to the Commonwealth's rich pop music history offers a fresh alternative to the usual tourist destinations.

London is teeming with pop landmarks, like the crosswalk at Abbey Road, The BBC studios, and venerable venues like The Royal Albert Hall and The 100 Club. And as The Kinks' classic "Waterloo Sunset" reminds, even the subway stations here can claim a little pop provenance. London is a logical starting point on the road to rock history, but as the music experts at Rhino Records confirm, it's hardly the end.

"After The Beatles invaded America, regional scenes sprung up all over England," notes Mason Williams, coproducer of The Brit Box: UK Indie, Shoegaze, And Brit-Pop Gems Of The Last Millennium, a new 4-CD boxed set featuring some of the most interesting bands of the last twenty years. "The mid-1980s brought a real renaissance of U.K. rock, something that still continues today."

After the capital, the next major U.K. music mecca is Manchester, 160 miles northwest of London and birthplace of such bands as The Smiths and Oasis. Unfortunately the notorious Manc nightspot The Hacienda closed in 1997, but 30 miles west in the port city of Liverpool, the famed Cavern Club is still going strong. The site is legendary in Beatle lore, but the city also gave the world postpunk greats like Echo & The Bunnymen, whose old stomping ground, Eric's, stood just a few hundred yards away from the Cavern on Mathew St.

Music fans traveling farther afield to Wales or Northern Ireland will find plenty to see and hear there as well, as evidenced by the success of such local heroes as Super Furry Animals and Ash. And don't forget Scotland; Glasgow has been minting cool rock groups for a quarter-century, from The Jesus And Mary Chain to current indie faves Belle And Sebastian.

Some tips for the music traveler:

  • Summer months offer some of the best weather (and rock festivals).
  • Pick up a copy of NME or Time Out magazine when you arrive for a list of concerts.
  • Visit www.visitbritain.co.uk to find more of pop's hot spots.

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