8 secret music destinations you need to visit right now
Have you already walked Abbey Road in London and visited Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris? Then it’s time to get off the beaten track and undercover some of Europe’s secret music destinations. This article is brought to you by Busabout – travel for freestyle travellers who want to decide where they want to go, when they want to go there and when they want to leave.
So many tourists get their photos taken trying to recreate the cover of The Beatles’ album Abbey Road that an entire genre of YouTube videos now exists to document them. Likewise, so many people get drunk at Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris’s Pére Lachaise Cemetery that metal barricades have now been built and guards hired. The caretakers have to regularly erase the graffiti painted on nearby tombstones with arrows pointing towards Morrison’s final resting place in case you get lost – this, in the cemetery that’s also home to Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and a laundry list of famous artists. So why not get off the beaten (and away from the crowds) to discover some of the less obvious experiences Europe has to offer music fans?
1. The John Lennon Temple Of Peace, Love And Music – Russia
Kolya Vasin is Russia’s biggest Beatles fan. He claims to have listened to them from morning till night every day since 1964, back when they and their decadent haircuts were still frowned upon by the Russian authorities. But after the fall of the Soviet Union, his love of the Fab Four didn’t have to be hidden away and he began building his temple dedicated to them in St. Petersburg. In a small room inside the Puskinskaya 10 art complex he’s collected massive amounts of Beatles memorabilia, including some that can only be found in Russia, where their records were inventively smuggled into the country in the form of X-rays that could then be transferred to vinyl.
2. The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main St mansion “NellcÃ´te” – France
In 1971 The Rolling Stones went into exile rather than pay the 93 percent income tax they’d owe in England. They moved to France but scattered all over the country, so that when they decided to get back to work on the album they’d begun recording in Britain they made the pragmatic decision to get together at Keith Richards’ place – because he was the band member least likely to turn up. That meant gathering in his mansion on the French Riviera: NellcÃ´te. Most of Exile On Main St. was recorded in the building’s damp, dark basement, which made for a sound so lo-fi Richards has called it “the first grunge record”. The house became a haven for visiting celebrities – John Lennon supposedly vomited on the front steps after drinking with Richards (it’s a wonder that spot is not a Beatles shrine by now) – and also drug dealers, until eventually the French police showed up and busted them. While you can still visit the mansion at 10 Louise Bordes Avenue, Villefranche-sur-Mer, don’t expect to be allowed into the basement by the Russian millionaire who owns it now.
3. Eurovision winner Lordi’s Square – Finland
As the first – and so far only – Finnish entrant to ever win the Eurovision Song Contest, hard rock monster metal band Lordi are incredibly popular in their home country. Their faces are on stamps, they have their own comics and movies, and there’s also an official brand of Lordi soft drink available in several flavours. The town of Rovaniemi in the province of Lapland, birthplace of the band’s axe-wielding frontman Mr Lordi, even renamed its town square in their honour. The band’s cement handprints decorate a wall there so you can see how much larger than your own the hands of band members The Hulk From Hell, The Minister Of Sinister, and The Alien Man-Beast really are, all while drinking a refreshing Lordi Cola.
4. ABBA: The Museum – Sweden
Sure, Liverpool has The Beatles Story exhibition, where you can see George Harrison’s first guitar and John Lennon’s iconic round NHS glasses while enjoying an audio tour narrated by Julia Lennon. But everybody goes there. Head to the Swedish Music Hall Of Fame in DjurgÃ¥rden, Stockholm and you’ll find ABBA: The Museum. There are no Australians left who still think they’re too cool for ABBA, right? As well as all of the memorabilia you’d expect to find at this kind of exhibit – costumes, gold albums, Benny Andersson’s piano, the mixing desk from their days at Polar Studios – there’s an interactive hologram experience that lets you become the fifth member of the band. If you don’t quote Muriel’s Wedding at some point during that you’re basically un-Australian.
5. David Bowie and Iggy Pop’s apartment building – Germany
At 155 Haupstrasse, Schonenberg, David Bowie and Iggy Pop lived in the same seven-room apartment complex from 1976 to 1978. Bowie moved to Berlin both because he was fascinated by the place and its music, and because he wanted a place where he could anonymously recover from drug addiction. The Germans were polite enough that even though he wasn’t as anonymous as he hoped, he probably felt like it – the story goes that fans would follow him to record stores but only enter after he left, and then ask to be sold the same albums he’d bought. A few doors down from the apartment building is Neues Ufer, one of the first openly gay bars in Europe, where Bowie and Pop used to hang out. Again showing admirable German restraint, the bar has a small gallery of memorabilia including a photo of Bowie, and that’s all.
6. Sigur RÃ³s’ Reykjanes Peninsula – Iceland
The music video for ‘GlÃ³sÃ³li’ by Sigur RÃ³s is essentially a tourist advertisement already. “Come to Iceland, see the hot springs and windswept lavafields, consider setting fire to an abandoned car, have a nap on a moss-covered rock!” The clip was filmed on the Reykjanes Peninsula, which has so many geothermal areas three of them have been harnessed to generate electricity. As well as volcanic craters and lagoons, what you’ll want to see is the cliff that frames the climax of ‘GlÃ³sÃ³li’. It overlooks and has a great view of Reykjanesviti, the country’s oldest lighthouse, on the southwestern edge of the peninsula. Please don’t jump off the cliff, though.
7. The Church that black metal burnt – Norway
Fantoft Stave Church was originally built in 1150, and survived a threat of demolition by being moved from the village of Fortun to Bergen city piece by piece in 1883. It did not survive black metal, however. In 1992 it was one of the first churches burnt by the infamous Varg Vikernes, who had left the death metal band Old Funeral to create a solo project called Burzum. The church’s ruin decorate the cover of the Burzum EP Aske (Norwegian for ashes), the first 1000 printings of which came packaged with a lighter. It’s since been rebuilt, almost exactly as it was, and can be visited from 10.30am till 6pm. Just leave your lighter at home, yeah?
8. Serge Gainsbourg’s house of love – France
The house at 5 bis Rue de Verneuil in Paris, where Serge Gainsbourg lived from 1969 until he died there in 1991, has become a shrine dedicated to him. The outside is covered in graffiti created by fans, including some impressive portraits, while the inside remains largely unchanged from the way it was during his life. It’s still full of his ashtrays and weird collections, like various police badges, guns, and bullets from all over France, and the walls are covered in photos of his muses, lovers, and the women who sang his songs – Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and more. Only his pianos, and several cans of food that exploded, have been removed from the house. Even the flowers he kept on his bed remain, now dried, alongside his chewing gum and mints.
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