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Musical Tourism: Roll Up for the Magical Mystery Tour

By PaddyDog | Comment Diversions | April 1, 2009 |

By PaddyDog | Comment Diversions | April 1, 2009 |

Even among anoraks, there is a definite pecking order. Bottom of the pile are the hard-core tech-nerd sci-fi guys. You know the ones: they go to the conventions and bombard some clueless actor who just wanted to pick up a quick pay check with multi-layered theories about the significance of the box of oatmeal on the shelf to the left of the shorter Klingon in scene 9, episode 20 of season 12. In the middle layers you’ll find your standard-issue trainspotters for a variety of pursuits. Then you come to the movie buffs and their exhaustive lists of “best gaffer in a film noir from 1940 to 1955”. And at the very top of the anorak hierarchy are the music guys. These are the quiet guys sitting in the corner of the room at 2 am who interrupt your happily buzzed enjoyment of Burning Down the House with “of course you do realize that David Byrne totally ripped off Ryuichi Sakamoto’s early arrangements for the score of The Wings of Honneamise, and that wasn’t even Ryu’s best work.”

Annoying though they may be it was through this species that I was introduced to the concept of musical tourism: the hobby of visiting places memorialized or referenced in music. I’ve never been dedicated enough to do it like the zealots: I know one guy from Dublin who organizes all his vacations around this concept. He has literally made the morning last on the 59th Street Bridge; ridden on the train they call the City of New Orleans; stood on the corner of Winslow, Arizona; driven all of Route 66, sunbathed on the beach at Ipanema; walked down Penny Lane, and so on.

The first time I went to New York, I asked the cabbie to take me to the Chelsea Hotel, surely the mecca for any musical tourist in New York City. I stood in the lobby thinking about Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas (poetry is music) and all the greats. The place is a dive, but it’s an historic dive and for some reason it meant something to have been there for five minutes (of course my friend from Dublin when he is in town insists on staying in room 100 where Sid stabbed Nancy). Since then, I look for musical tourism destinations wherever I visit, and it definitely adds a more interesting layer to the standard business trip to New Jersey (thank Godtopus for Fountains of Wayne: who knew one would ever have a reason to visit Hackensack).

The rules are simple. The location must be named or referenced in an album title, song title or song lyric (you don’t have to like the song or the band). No made-up places (Los Angeles has about 200 motels called Hotel California) and no places named because of the song (Sally McLennane’s pub). Some people play for points: California, Chicago and San Francisco are just one-pointers because they feature in so many songs, while more difficult locations: Harper Valley or Clarksville are up in the 7-10 point categories (extra credit if you can figure out how to take the last train to get there).

My top destinations so far:

#1 The Chelsea Hotel
#2 The Casbah
#3 Soho, London (on a Rainy Night of course)
#4 Eton (I didn’t see any rifles)

And now it’s your turn. Where would Pajiban musical tourists go?

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